Reforming the Federal Election Commission

What's wrong with the FEC?

Americans expect their elections to be conducted in a fair, honest and lawful manner, but the agency charged with ensuring election integrity is embarrassingly dysfunctional. In a post-Citizens United world, we can be sure of two things: a significant surge in complaints filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), and virtual certainty that most of these complaints will go nowhere.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) regularly refers derogatorily to the FEC as the “the little agency that can’t” or the “muzzled watchdog,” for good reason. By design it was structured to be ineffective and glacially slow.

Put simply, the Commission is excessively partisan and political, the enforcement process is cumbersome and inefficient, and the penalties levied are too anemic to deter violations of the law. To be sure, Congress has a vested interest in preventing any reform of the FEC; members, after all, would be the targets of many enforcement actions.

Now more than ever, the health of our democracy depends on whether Congress can muster the will to fix this broken agency.  Reform of the FEC should be a top priority for the 112th Congress.



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