New FEC inspector general report describes a hobbled watchdog

A new report from the Office of Inspector General at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) provides new information about how the agency’s internal watchdog has been hamstrung for months — a concerning state of affairs that was also detailed in Issue One’s recent report “Busted and Broke: Why the Federal Election Commission doesn’t work.”

In short: The FEC’s Office of Inspector General has been unable, for many months, to complete audits, investigate criminal and administrative allegations, conduct peer reviews, evaluate personnel, approve budgetary decisions, and conduct mandatory professional trainings. This is further evidence that the agency suffers from systemic dysfunction.

For background, the Office of Inspector General is responsible for conducting audits and investigations; recommending policies and procedures that promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness at the FEC; and preventing fraud, waste, and abuse at the agency.

Yet the position of inspector general has been vacant since March 2017 and the position of deputy inspector general has been vacant since November 2018 — prohibiting the office from doing its job, as this new report details.

Employees at the FEC’s Office of Inspector General as well as the former deputy inspector general, “have expressed our concerns to the FEC commissioners regarding the absence of an acting or permanent [inspector general], and the need for this position to be filled on an acting or permanent basis,” the report states.

The day before this report was sent to Congress, the FEC announced that it had named Tony Baptiste to serve as its acting inspector general, although FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub said in the report that it would likely take three or four months to complete the hiring process for a permanent inspector general.

As Issue One noted in “Busted and Broke,” the FEC continues to be plagued by vacancies at every level, including two open commissioner seats and a number of senior leadership roles that are either unfilled or are filled on an acting basis.

Congress should provide the FEC with the resources it needs to do its job, and the FEC should set aside ideological differences to focus on safeguarding our elections. Otherwise, the country will continue to lack the effective enforcement of campaign finance laws at a time when the amount of money in elections is soaring.