U.S. Congress: Reform Groups Today Urge Two Additional Congressional Committees to Investigate and Hold Hearings on Dysfunctional FEC

CLC Staff
Feb 17, 2011
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Yesterday, nine reform groups sent letters to the Chairman and Ranking Minority Members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform calling on the Committees "to investigate and hold hearings on the systemic problems with the Federal Election Commission (FEC)."

Today, the reform groups sent a similar letter, enclosed below, to the Chairman and Ranking Minority Members of two additional Committees, the Senate Rules Committee and the House Administration Committee, urging these Committees also to investigate and hold hearings on the FEC. These two committees have congressional jurisdiction over the nation's campaign finance laws and the FEC.

According to the letters to the Committees, the FEC is "one of the most dysfunctional agencies in the federal government” and a “broken agency that refuses to fulfill its basic statutory functions."  

The letters to the Committees further state that "The FEC Commissioners are carrying out what can only be described as 'agency nullification,' failing to provide for any effective enforcement of the statutes within their purview."

The reform groups which sent the letters included Americans for Campaign Reform, Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, CREW, Democracy 21, League of Women Voters, Public Campaign, Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG.

The full letter follows below:

The Hon. Charles Schumer                                         
The Hon. Lamar Alexander                                        
Committee on Rules & Administration                     
U.S. Senate                                                                 
Washington, DC  20510                                 

The Hon. Dan Lungren
The Hon. Robert Brady
Committee on House Administration 
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC  20515

February 17, 2011

Dear Senators Schumer and Alexander and Representatives Lungren and Brady:

The under-signed organizations, dedicated to ensuring that federal candidates for public office abide by their legal obligations, respectfully urge your Committees to investigate and hold hearings on the systemic problems with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).  The FEC is, without question, one of the most dysfunctional agencies in the federal government.  As the Committees with jurisdiction over the FEC, you have a responsibility to examine the reasons why the FEC has ceased to comply with its statutory mandates.

The FEC is a broken agency that refuses to fulfill its basic statutory functions.  Examples of the FEC’s ineffectiveness are legion.  Time and again, the FEC has either dismissed complaints because the Republican and Democratic Commissioners have rejected efforts by the professional staff to enforce the law, deadlocked in a three-to-three vote, or promulgated rules contrary to the law, resulting in orders from the court to rewrite those rules.    

The FEC Commissioners are carrying out what can only be described as “agency nullification,” failing to provide for any effective enforcement of the statutes within their purview.  There are myriad explanations as to why the FEC is unable to operate effectively, including defects in its structure, composition, and appointment process. Americans expect their elections to be conducted in a fair, honest and lawful manner, but the agency charged with ensuring the integrity of campaign financing is embarrassingly incapacitated.  Put simply, the Commission is excessively political and ideological, and the enforcement process is therefore broken.

Our nation's laws should not be undermined by the agency charged with enforcement.  It is up to Congress to write the laws and for the courts to determine the constitutionality of the laws.  FEC Commissioners may not simply refuse to enforce laws based on their disagreement with the laws, or their predictions of how a court might rule if a law were challenged.  Until Congress addresses these problems, candidates, donors, parties and outside spenders will continue to flout the laws with little fear of repercussion.  

The status quo is unacceptable and the American public reasonably expects agencies charged with enforcing the laws to actually do so.  Our organizations respectfully request that your Committees hold hearings to examine the root causes of the Commission’s dysfunction.  It is unacceptable that the only agency charged with enforcing campaign financing rules on our nation’s highest elected officials is largely AWOL.


Americans for Campaign Reform
Campaign Legal Center
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
Common Cause
Democracy 21
League of Women Voters
Public Campaign
Public Citizen
U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG)

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