FEC commissioner resigns, leaving agency without a quorum again
Caroline Hunter, a Republican commissioner on the Federal Election Commission (FEC), announced Friday that she is stepping down next week, leaving the agency without a quorum and unable to vote on enforcement actions.
Hunter’s resignation came just weeks after the FEC had regained a quorum of four commissioners following the Senate confirmation of Republican Trey Trainor.
In a resignation letter sent to President Trump on Friday, Hunter, who was nominated to the position by former President George W. Bush in 2008, wrote that the FEC “could benefit greatly from new faces and fresh perspectives.”
“It needs Commissioners who will respect the First Amendment, understand the limits of the FEC’s jurisdiction, and remember that Congress established the FEC to prevent single-party control, with every significant decision requiring bipartisan approval,” she wrote.
Hunter pointed to concerns over another unnamed commissioner “who has served more than a decade past the expiration of her term” as someone who “misrepresents the jurisdiction of the agency and deliberately enables outside groups to usurp the Commission’s role in litigation and chilled protected speech.”
While Hunter did not name the commissioner, FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat who has served since 2002, has been an outspoken critic of the FEC’s dysfunction over the past few years.
It’s keenly disappointing for @FEC to lose its quorum just a blink of an eye after regaining it. But I wish Caroline well now & in the future.
— Ellen L Weintraub (@EllenLWeintraub) June 26, 2020
Weintraub tweeted Friday that it was “keenly disappointing” that the FEC had lost its quorum so soon after it regained it last month.
“I wish Caroline well now & in the future,” Weintraub tweeted.
Trump on Friday took immediate action to fill Hunter’s position, nominating Allen Dickerson to serve as a commissioner. Dickerson currently serves as the legal director at the Institute for Free Speech in Alexandria, Va., and prior to that was an associate with law firm Kirkland & Ellis. He also serves as a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve.
Should Kirkland be confirmed by the Senate, a quorum will be restored, allowing the FEC to conduct business. There will still be two remaining openings on the FEC.
After stepping down on July 3, Hunter will join the legal team at Stand Together, a philanthropic group funded by conservative businessman Charles Koch that aims to address poverty, addiction, justice reform and strengthening K-12 education.
“In my new position, I look forward to advancing Stand Together’s mission to help people discover and apply their unique gifts to achieve their potential and meaningfully contribute to the lives of others,” Hunter said in a statement.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee with jurisdiction over the FEC, said in a statement Friday that the FEC cannot be without its quorum during an election year.
“The FEC will be unable to take any substantive measures to enforce federal election laws. This is unacceptable, especially during a presidential election year disrupted by COVID-19 and as foreign adversaries continue their work to influence our political system,” Klobuchar said. “A fully functioning FEC is critical to safeguarding our political system from corruption and foreign influence.”
Klobuchar urged Trump to nominate a Democrat as well as a Republican, pointing to the tradition of confirming two FEC commissioners at a time, one from each party.
House Administration Committee Chairperson Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), whose committee has jurisdiction over election issues, also took issue Friday with the Senate’s failure to confirm a Democratic commissioner last month alongside Trainor.
“In confirming only a single, Republican nominee to the Commission last month, the Senate Majority failed to ensure a lasting quorum, enabling a single Commissioner’s departure to grind much of the Commission’s work to a halt once again,” Lofgren said in a statement. “Americans deserve a functional Federal Election Commission to fulfill its responsibilities. I again urge the President and Senate to move forward swiftly with nominees who will enforce and administer the law fairly.”
Trevor Potter, the president of the Campaign Legal Center and a former Republican chairman of the FEC, told The Hill in a statement that Hunter’s resignation “leaves democratic elections with significantly less government oversight.”
“A strong and functional FEC is vital to protecting our democracy, fighting corruption, and holding politicians accountable for the campaign money they receive,” he added.
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