Advocates urge Trump, Congress to nominate tough watchdogs to FEC

Advocates urge Trump, Congress to nominate tough watchdogs to FEC
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A coalition of advocacy groups, led by the Campaign Legal Center, wrote to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests some states may 'pay nothing' as part of unemployment plan Trump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran MORE and congressional leaders on Monday, urging the nomination of federal election commissioners who will take a tough approach to enforcing campaign laws.

The Federal Election Commission (FEC), the government's campaign watchdog, only has three of six commissioners, one shy of a quorum. Former FEC Vice President Matthew Petersen resigned in August and, since then, the organization has been unable to do its job of enforcing campaign laws.

“Under no circumstances should the President nominate or the Senate confirm any individual who is opposed — whether for ideological, professional, or any other reason — to the enforcement of the duly enacted laws and regulations that protect the transparency and fairness of our elections,” the advocacy groups wrote in their letter Monday.


The coalition wants Trump and Congress to approve enough commissioners to restore the quorum ahead of the 2020 election so that the FEC can enforce campaign laws. The FEC is responsible for investigations into possible campaign violations, auditing campaign committees and issuing fines for those who break campaign finance law, such as the ban on contributions from foreign nationals.

“Rushing to confirm a new slate of Commissioners that includes nominees who are opposed to campaign finance laws would only extend this disturbing status quo,” they wrote.

The letter also calls for establishing a nonpartisan panel to identify candidates for the FEC.

Common Cause, Communications Workers of America, Democracy 21 and Public Citizen, among others, are in the coalition. They sent the letter to Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Coronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority Coronavirus talks collapse as negotiators fail to reach deal MORE (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerWhite House officials, Democrats spar over legality, substance of executive orders Schumer declines to say whether Trump executive orders are legal: They don't 'do the job' Schumer: Idea that 0 unemployment benefit keeps workers away from jobs 'belittles the American people' MORE (D-N.Y.), and Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSkepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal GOP expects Senate to be in session next week without coronavirus deal House Republicans introduce legislation to give states 0 million for elections MORE (R-Mo.) and ranking member Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package Lobbying world MORE (D-Minn.).

It follows a letter sent to Trump and congressional leaders last week by lobbyists and lawyers who specialize in U.S. elections, urging confirmation of another federal election commissioner.

The three current commissioners are all ineligible for reappointment, and with no new appointments it is unclear when the deadlock will be resolved. The FEC has not been left without a quorum since 2008. 

The Trump administration and Congress have not indicted that nominating commissioners is a priority ahead of the 2020 election.