After arrest of Giuliani associates, FEC chair says commission struggling to enforce rules

Federal Elections Commission (FEC) chairwoman Ellen Weintraub lamented the board's inability to enforce campaign finance law in the U.S., saying in a new interview that there "may well be a lot of money that is slipping into our system that we just don’t know about."

Her remarks came in the wake of the campaign finance violation charges leveled against two associates of Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump: Tough times but progress being made Giuliani touts experimental coronavirus treatment in private conversations with Trump Trump team picks fight with Twitter, TV networks over political speech MORE, President TrumpDonald John TrumpCDC updates website to remove dosage guidance on drug touted by Trump Trump says he'd like economy to reopen 'with a big bang' but acknowledges it may be limited Graham backs Trump, vows no money for WHO in next funding bill MORE's personal attorney. Florida businessmen Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were arrested last week and accused of orchestrating a straw donor scheme that funneled money to numerous Republican committees, including a $325,000 contribution in May 2018 to a pro-Trump super PAC called America First Action. 


Weintraub would not comment on specifics regarding Parnas and Fruman's alleged scheme during an interview with The Washington Post. But she emphasized that “the ban on foreign money, obviously, is needed to make sure we have American elections for Americans.” 

She also also addressed the struggles her agency's faced in light of FEC Vice Chairman Matthew Petersen's decision to resign in August, leaving the FEC with only three commissioners out of six seats. 

The move resulted in the organization being short of a quorum, which is necessary for it to conduct official business. It is unclear when Trump will appoint another chairman. 

“When campaign finance issues are on the front pages of the newspaper every single day, this is a particularly bad time for the FEC not to have a quorum and not be able to respond to enforcement matters, not to be able to have new rulemaking or issue advisory opinions,” Weintraub said. 

The lack of a quorum means the agency is unable complete investigations into possible campaign violations, audit campaign committees or make new rules. According to guidelines released in 2008, the FEC can conduct only basic administrative functions without four chars.

The Trump administration is facing increasing scrutiny over its dealings with Ukraine. A whistleblower complaint accusing Trump of pressuring the nation to investigate 2020 presidential candidate Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump shakes up WH communications team The Hill's Campaign Report: Wisconsin votes despite coronavirus pandemic The Intercept's Ryan Grim says Cuomo is winning over critics MORE led House Democrats to launch a formal impeachment inquiry. 

Following the complaint's release, Trump publicly urged Ukraine and China to look into Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, over allegations of corruption. That suggestion prompted Weintraub to reiterate that it is illegal for campaigns to accept foreign assistance. 

"The law is pretty clear,” Weintraub said on MSNBC earlier this month. “It is absolutely illegal for anyone to solicit, accept or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with any election in the United States."

Weintraub declined to answer a question from the Post about whether Trump's public call to foreign governments violated laws, saying, "I’d rather not answer that question because it’s too close to the facts of an actual thing that could come before the commission in an enforcement context."