Watchdogs call for new campaign regulator to replace ‘woefully inept’ FEC

The advocates said the biggest share of the blame for the FEC’s problems rests with its three Republican appointees, who have “consistently blocked the agency’s professional staff from pursuing enforcement matters.”

The advocates suggested replacing the FEC with a new agency that is headed by a single administrator with “the authority, power and independence to effectively enforce the laws.”

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They said the new agency should “include a system of impartial administrative law judges” to make quick rulings in campaign finance cases. That would “provide real time penalties for violations of the campaign finance laws, where possible, in order to remove the perception that there is no cost to violating the law."

Barring the creation of a new regulatory agency, the authors said it’s time for major changes at the FEC. 

They urged President Obama to make new appointments to the commission to replace members whose terms have expired. They said the president should “abandon the business-as-usual approach of letting congressional party leaders select the nominees” and put his on stamp on the commission.

“As long as President Obama fails to nominate new commissioners, the absence of FEC enforcement of the campaign finance laws ... rests with the president,” the paper says.

Further, the FEC’s funding comes at a direct conflict to its mission, according to the authors, and should be bolstered by Congress.

“It is funded by the very individuals who it is responsible for regulating. Congress has historically underfunded the FEC’s enforcement efforts and imposed constraints on how the agency can use the money it receives,” Wertheimer and Simon wrote.

One way or another, the authors said, major changes are needed in the campaign finance system. 

“Without a new agency or completely revamped FEC, the nation’s remaining campaign finance laws will continue to go unenforced,” Democracy 21 said in a statement about the brief.