Election Commission Vice Chair Resigns, Leaving It Without Quorum

August 27, 2019 by Dan McCue
Screen grab from Twitter

WASHINGTON – Matt Petersen, a Republican appointment to the Federal Election Commission and most recently, its vice chairman, has resigned his seat, leaving the panel overseeing campaign laws without a quorum.

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

In his resignation letter to President Donald Trump, Petersen said “throughout my service, I have faithfully discharged my duty to enforce the law in a manner that respects free speech rights, while also fairly interpreting the relevant statutes and regulations and providing meaningful notice to those subject to FEC jurisdiction.”

Trump briefly nominated Petersen to serve as a federal judge in the District of Columbia but withdrew the nomination at Petersen’s request after a video clip from his confirmation hearing showed him unable to answer basic questions about legal procedure.

Petersen has not said what he will do when his resignation is effective Friday.

In a statement on the FEC’s website he said, “I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have served on the Commission. The work of a Commissioner is challenging because it involves taking actions that impact the free speech rights of the American people. For this reason, I take satisfaction in having fulfilled my obligation to safeguard First Amendment interests while faithfully administering and enforcing the federal campaign finance laws.”

President George W. Bush had first nominated Petersen, a former staffer to the late Sen. Bob Bennett, to the FEC in 2008, and he has served as chairman of the commission twice.

Petersen’s tenure on the Commission has coincided with several court cases that significantly changed campaign finance law, the most notable being the Supreme Court’s opinion in Citizens United v. FEC.

As a result, the Vice Chairman played a large role in shaping the post-Citizens United legal framework governing Super PACs and corporate and union political speech.

He also helped draft new procedures affording enhanced rights and protections for individuals and organizations involved in FEC enforcement matters, audits, and advisory opinion requests.

“I will miss Matt,” said FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat. “For 11 years, he has been a gracious and steady colleague on the Commission. I have especially enjoyed working together with him this year as the FEC’s Chair and Vice Chair. I wish Matt every success in the next chapter of his story.”

Commissioner Caroline Hunter, a fellow Republican, said, “I wish everyone had the pleasure of working with Matt. He is that rare professional who combines genuine kindness and warmth with a razor-sharp intellect and a great sense of humor. His collegiality here at the Commission has become legendary, as has his determination to protect the First Amendment rights of all Americans. We will miss him.”

“I know I speak not only for myself, but for all of our staff by expressing the view that the agency is losing one of the finest Commissioners that has served on the Commission,” said Commissioner Steven T. Walther, a Republican. “He has injected a steady, even-handed and positive approach to our deliberations, often delivered with a much needed good sense of humor that has often made all the difference in the outcome of our deliberations. The agency will miss him sorely, and so will I.”

Prior to joining the commission, Petersen served in senior positions in both houses of Congress: first, as counsel to the Committee on House Administration and then as Republican chief counsel to the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration.

He was extensively involved in the crafting of the Help America Vote Act of 2002—the election reform bill passed in the wake of the 2000 presidential recount— and was chief adviser to the Republican floor manager during the Senate debate on the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007, the most recent comprehensive revision of federal lobbying and government ethics laws.

In The News

Health

Voting

Elections

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

All Eyes on Iowa Governor Over Elections Bill
In The States
All Eyes on Iowa Governor Over Elections Bill
February 26, 2021
by TWN Staff

DES MOINES, Iowa - Residents of Iowa will have to wait until next week to learn if dramatic changes are going to be made to how they participate in future elections.  Earlier this week, both houses of the State Legislature voted along party lines with their... Read More

Kilmer, Fitzpatrick Out to Restore Integrity of America’s Election Watchdog
Elections
Kilmer, Fitzpatrick Out to Restore Integrity of America’s Election Watchdog
February 25, 2021
by TWN Staff

WASHINGTON - Reps. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., have launched an effort to untangle the increasingly common deadlocks at the Federal Elections Commission and enable it to more effectively carry out its mission to oversee and enforce campaign finance laws. On Wednesday, the two... Read More

Former FEC Chairs Offer Bipartisan Endorsement of For The People Act
Elections
Former FEC Chairs Offer Bipartisan Endorsement of For The People Act
February 23, 2021
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - Two former chairs of the Federal Elections Commission -- one a Democrat, the other a Republican -- have thrown their support behind the election reform provisions of the For the People Act. In a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate, Trevor... Read More

Election Commission Plans for More Secure Votes and Elections
Elections
Election Commission Plans for More Secure Votes and Elections
February 17, 2021
by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON -- A federal election official described the 2020 vote as one of the most difficult in American history during a congressional hearing Monday. The COVID-19 pandemic, reports of attempted foreign cyberattacks and allegations of fraud by President Donald Trump and his supporters played havoc with... Read More

FEC to Host Webinar for Membership and Labor Organization PACs
Elections
FEC to Host Webinar for Membership and Labor Organization PACs
February 16, 2021
by TWN Staff

WASHINGTON - The Federal Election Commission will hold a one-day online seminar for membership organizations, labor organizations, and their political action committees on March 24, 2021. These interactive workshops are designed for those seeking an introduction to the basic provisions of the law as well as for those more... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top