The Federal Election Commission (FEC), the nation’s top election watchdog, is mired in gridlock and lacks the budget, staff, and teeth to enforce our nation’s campaign finance laws. Created in 1974, the FEC is charged with enforcing federal campaign laws to prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption. However, the agency was intentionally structured from the beginning to be weak, and throughout the years, it has become increasingly less effective and mired in partisan division.
Our campaign finance laws only work if they are enforced. The unfortunate reality is that federal laws about money in politics are regularly violated, and when the FEC recognizes a violation, the agency usually takes very little meaningful action. Because the commission has an even number of Republicans and Democrats, it deadlocks 3-3 on most major decisions.
The Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act has been introduced with bipartisan support in multiple sessions of Congress. The bill is designed to restructure the FEC and ensure it can effectively enforce the law.
Key provisions in the bill would:
- Change the number of commissioners. By reducing the number of commissioners from six to five and permitting no more than two members to be affiliated with the same party, the FEC would become a more effective enforcer of ethics and election laws. The commission would have the authority to initiate, defend and appeal civil actions, conduct investigations, issue advisory opinions, and change or amend regulations.
- Create a blue ribbon panel to recommend commissioners. To help ensure the president nominates a highly qualified appointee, a nonpartisan Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel is needed to publicly recommend potential nominees to the FEC for the president’s consideration.
- Strengthen the FEC chair. The bill also directs the president to appoint a chair, subject to confirmation by the Senate. The chair would have administrative powers and the power to order written reports, administer oaths, and handle witnesses and evidence.
- Eliminate never-ending holdovers. Currently, FEC commissioners can serve long after their term has expired while they wait for a replacement commissioner. Instead, commissioners would serve a single six-year term and may not remain in office in holdover status for more than one year.
- Improve enforcement. The bill clarifies that the FEC may be represented by agency attorneys before the Supreme Court and allows those who respond to requests before the FEC to appear at hearings.
Learn more at our Federal Election Commission page.