Allred Cosponsors Bill to Reform America’s Election Watchdog

September 17, 2019 by Dan McCue
"I voted" stickers in San Diego. (John Gibbins/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)

WASHINGTON – Rep. Colin Allred, D-Texas, is co-sponsoring a bipartisan effort to reform the Federal Election Commission so that it can enforce the nation’s campaign finance and election laws in a non-partisan manner.

The push to pass the Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act comes in the wake of the resignation of Matt Petersen, a Republican appointment to the commission and most recently, its vice chairman.

Petersen’s departure left the FEC with only three of the six commission seats filled heading into the 2020 election cycle. In practical terms, that means the commission can’t legally call any meetings, issue fines, conduct audits, make rules or make decisions on investigations.

“As insidious forces at home and abroad try to influence our elections, [we] need an effective watchdog to enforce campaign finance laws and prevent bad actors from doing harm to our democracy,” Allred said.

“This is an issue where Democrats and Republicans alike are finding common ground. We must act to ensure our elections are secure and our laws are enforced,” he said.

The bill was introduced in February by Reps. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa. At the time their concern was the FEC’s enforcement process. In 2006, the representatives said, the commission deadlocked on fewer than three percent of all major enforcement cases. That number jumped to 30 percent by 2016, they said.

“The foundation of our democracy is the American people’s confidence in our electoral system,” Fitzpatrick said at the time.

“Ending the partisan gridlock at the Federal Election Commission will increase transparency and give the American people confidence that campaigns are held accountable and everyone is following the same rules,” he added.

Kilmer quipped that the situation had gotten so out of hand that the “commission … has seen more gridlock than Congress.”

“Meaningful, substantial reforms at the Commission need to happen so it can get back to weeding out campaign finance abuse and holding those who skirt the rules accountable,” he said.

Although Petersen’s departure has put the FEC board on hold, the agency continues to issue requests for comment on proposed rulemaking and the like, and the staff continues to work.

The directive that lays out how work will be performed when there is not a quorum for commission is located here, beginning in the middle of page 5.

“Plenty of FEC operations are unaffected by the lack of a quorum,” Judith Ingram, the agency’s press officer, told The Well News.

“The staff is continuing to receive, disclose and analyze campaign finance reports, as well as continuing all work that does not require a vote by the commissioners,” she said.

“In some cases, the staff will be preparing work for whenever a quorum is restored. So even if there is no imminent vote on rulemaking, for example, staff can collect comments, draft texts, and the like,” Ingram added.

The Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act would:

  • Change the number of commissioners from six to five, eliminating prominent result of stalemate decisions and inaction on important campaign finance matters;
  • Require that commissioners would be non-partisan, an effort to increase the independence of the FEC;
  • Establish an advisory Blue-Ribbon Commission to develop recommendations on nominees to fill vacancies on the Commission as they arise;
  • Prohibit recent politicians from serving as commissioners to preserve the independence of the commission;
  • Strengthen the role of the General Counsel so that enforcement matters move forward on such authority, unless the Commission affirmatively votes to override the General Counsel;
  •  Revise the qualifications for commissioners to focus on independence, public credibility, and professional experience in election law;
  • Designate to reviewing courts the power to decide whether agency action is contrary to law based on the merits of the complaints before them.

In March, House Democrats passed H.R. 1, a sweeping voting rights, campaign finance and ethics overhaul, by a vote of 234-193.

The bill was aimed at getting money out of politics and increasing transparency around donors, cracking down on lobbying, and expanding voting rights for Americans by implementing provisions like automatic voter registration.

Since its passage, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to let the measure come up for a vote in his chamber.

In The News

Health

Voting

Elections

Supreme Court Appears Likely to Uphold Arizona Voting Restrictions
Supreme Court
Supreme Court Appears Likely to Uphold Arizona Voting Restrictions
March 2, 2021
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – All six conservative justices on the Supreme Court appeared inclined Tuesday to support voting restrictions imposed in Arizona that critics say discriminate against racial minorities.  The case, Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee (Consolidated), is one of the most watched of the current Supreme Court... Read More

Voting Rights Overhaul Championed by Democrats
Elections
Voting Rights Overhaul Championed by Democrats
March 2, 2021
by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON -- Democrats in Congress want to overhaul the nation’s voting laws with the “For the People Act” (H.R. 1). Their majority in the House makes approval of the bill likely as soon as this week. H.R. 1 would reduce barriers to voting by extending early... Read More

Georgia House Passes GOP Bill Rolling Back Voting Access
In The States
Georgia House Passes GOP Bill Rolling Back Voting Access

ATLANTA (AP) — Republican lawmakers in Georgia muscled legislation through the state House on Monday that would roll back voting access, over the objection of Democrats and civil rights groups gathered at the Capitol to protest.  The bill comes after record turnout led to Democratic wins... Read More

St. Louis to Use New Voting Method for First Time
Cities
St. Louis to Use New Voting Method for First Time
March 1, 2021
by Dan McCue

ST. LOUIS – The city of St. Louis, Mo., will hold its mayoral primary Tuesday with a new electoral process approved by voters in November.  Under the so-called “approval voting” regime, candidates of all political affiliations will appear on the ballot without partisan labels. The measure... Read More

Democratic Voting Bill Would Make Biggest Changes in Decades
Elections
Democratic Voting Bill Would Make Biggest Changes in Decades

WASHINGTON (AP) — As Congress begins debate this week on sweeping voting and ethics legislation, Democrats and Republicans can agree on one thing: If signed into law, it would usher in the biggest overhaul of U.S. elections law in at least a generation.  House Resolution 1,... Read More

Aggregate Use of FEC Data on PAC Contributors Okay, Agency Says
Elections
Aggregate Use of FEC Data on PAC Contributors Okay, Agency Says
February 26, 2021
by TWN Staff

WASHINGTON - An independent political committee's use of aggregate contribution data related to PACs does not run afoul of the Federal Election Campaign Act, the Federal Elections Commission said.  Full Employment Now-Political Action Committee is an independent expenditure-only political committee that engages members of Congress and Congressional candidates... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top