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Partisan Gridlock Has Rendered The Federal Election Commission Useless

Nov. 3, 2011 

Partisan Gridlock Has Rendered The Federal Election Commission Useless

Public Citizen Calls on President Obama to Appoint New Commissioners, Break Deadlock

Note: At a press conference held today with other government reform groups, Public Citizen released a white paper detailing the extent of the Federal Election Commission’s partisan split. The press conference was held in advance of a U.S. House of Representatives elections subcommittee hearing examining FEC policies and procedures.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Barack Obama must appoint new commissioners to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the agency tasked with enforcing the nation’s federal election law, because the agency has been deadlocked in a partisan split since 2008, Public Citizen said in advance of a hearing on Capitol Hill addressing the agency’s policies.

As the elections subcommittee of the Committee on House Administration holds a hearing today with the FEC’s six commissioners, Public Citizen said that the FEC has been captured by GOP commissioners who don’t want to enforce campaign finance law. The partisan gridlock has rendered the agency useless.

“The FEC is broken,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist with Public Citizen. “The Republican bloc of commissioners – selected for the FEC by Sen. Mitch McConnell to stymie enforcement of our campaign finance laws – have done precisely that. Partisan deadlock is paralyzing the agency. President Obama needs to step in and appoint new commissioners who will take their charge of enforcing the law seriously and responsibly.”

Public Citizen analyzed four functions of the FEC: 1) enforcement of campaign finance laws; 2) audits of the financial activity of candidates and committees; 3) promulgation of regulations; and 4) the provision of advice to candidates and committees on how to avoid breaking election law.

Enforcement is one of the most critical functions of the FEC. But there has been an eight-fold increase in deadlocked votes, Public Citizen said. Historically, the agency deadlocked on fewer than 2 percent of its enforcement actions. But following the appointment of the latest Republican bloc of commissioners, deadlocks increased to about 16 percent.

When it came to votes about election-law regulations, the FEC deadlocked nearly 20 percent of the time last year. Similarly, when the agency voted on advisory opinions, it hit a roadblock two to three times more often in 2010 than in each of the previous seven years.

While the data show that many decisions were made despite the gridlock, they were for routine, non-controversial matters.


Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.citizen.org