It appears that for the immediate future, the Federal Elections Commission will be effectively shut down.
The abrupt resignation of Vice Chairman Matthew Petersen has left the FEC without the ability to form a quorum of four commissioners, which will bring the oversight group’s abilities to a standstill.
It can no longer hold meetings, write rules, conduct audits, vote on the outcomes of investigations, and cannot offer advice to political candidates and their campaigns on how to properly obey our already laughably lenient campaign finance laws.
The FEC was never that effective to begin with; with a maximum of six members inexplicably split evenly along partisan lines, the commission is perpetually locked in three against three ties and unable to properly do its duty. “People think the F.E.C. is dysfunctional. It’s worse than dysfunctional” complained chairwoman Ann M. Ravel in the lead up to the 2016 election. “The likelihood of the laws being enforced is slim.”
There appears to be little chance respite any time soon; since 2017, President Trump has nominated only one Republican commissioner, Trump-supporting lawyer Trey Trainor, to fill the two empty spots on the commission. The Senate has already declined twice to give him a confirmation hearing, but that hasn’t stopped the President from continuing to re-nominate him.
The president is not likely to want to nominate another Democrat to accompany Trainor and the White House has “repeatedly declined to answer questions about the FEC.”
This news will be music to the ears of the Donald J. Trump for President campaign and the campaigns of his Republican cronies. Dark money will be able to flood the coffers of 2020 candidates with little oversight or any fear of reprisal should they play fast and loose with the rules.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.