FEC chair Cynthia Bauerly talks transparency on campaign finance with Public Citizen

FEC chair Cynthia Bauerly speaks to a packed house at Public Citizen

With a record amount of money being poured into our elections, the Federal Election Commission, the agency in charge of monitoring and enforcing campaign finance and other huge election issues, must work harder than ever.

Luckily, Cynthia Bauerly, the chair of the agency, was able to spare a bit of her Thursday and spoke to a packed audience at Public Citizen. She talked about the need to disclose on campaign contributions (something Public Citizen strongly supports), how voters and consumers can weigh in on election-related matters, and the deadlocked nature of the bipartisan agency.

Robert Weissman, Public Citizen’s president, was sure to probe Bauerly on the U.S. Supreme Court’s damaging decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which gave corporations the green light to spend unlimited amount of money to influence elections. Bauerly said that she won’t discuss her personal views on the case while she holds her position, but that her role is not to advocate one way or another, but rather to abide by and enforce SCOTUS’ decision. Well, fine. Just know we’re coming back to ask you again after you leave the commission.

Similarly, Bauerly said that it is up to Congress to issue legislation on public financing and increased disclosure, as well as to decide the role of the Election Assistance Commission.

Our own Angela Bradbery live-tweeted the event. Check it out (and follow her/Public Citizen… okay, and me too, on Twitter).

Here’s it is (in descending order):

  • #fec chair says she will tell us what she thinks when she no longer is on the commission. Speech over.
  • @Public_Citizen prez tries 2 get #fec chair 2 get off talking points, give opinion of landscape, she sticks 2 explaining fec’s narrow scope
  • re case in virginia in which judge said direct corporate contributions are legal, #fec chair has no comment.
  • Re how internet has changed things, #fec chair says online campaign ads must follow rules. Says fec tries to stay out of Internet’s way
  • #fec chair notes agency has 1 800 number to help and answer questions
  • #fec chair explains commission structure, says perhaps a different number of commissioners would help break deadlock.
  • Bloomberg asks re the many 3-3 votes. #fec chair says commissioners have their reasons as outlined in statements issued after votes.
  • On deadlock problem, #fec chair says we consider petitions, that allows us to act.
  • #fec chair in response to question re reg that narrowed disclosure says we want to seek comment but commission is deadlocked
  • #fec chair can’t talk about #colbert petition because it is pending
  • #fec chair bauerly couldn’t have nestle quik while growing up because mom was boycotting company b’c of bad corporate behavior
  • #fec chair bauerly quotes scalia about civic courage, context of speaking out in public
  • #fec chair bauerly: we have limited ability to expand disclosure.
  • #fec chair says agency should do more on disclosure, including updating regs andand reconsidering requirements after #citizens united
  • #fec chair bauerly: agency is sued regularly – for being too regulatory and too lenient
  • #fec chair bauerly describing recent campaign finance cases.
  • #fec chair bauerly: disclosure is huge issue. Agency carefully reviews all reports.
  • #fec chair says commission doesn’t decide constitutionality of laws.
  • #FEC chair bauerly says her remarks are her own, not representative of all FEC commissioners
  • @Public_Citizen prez Robert Weissman introducing #fec chair
  • #FEC chair bauerly will start speaking soon.

Well, we don’t have to be impartial (and rarely are). We think we need public financing of elections, disclosure of where these campaign contributions are coming from, shareholder approval of corporate campaign contributions, but most of all, we need a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision. Get involved.