HOT BLAST: Elections watchdog hobbled by gridlock
Dec 18, 2013 | 1053 views |  0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The FEC began operations in 1975, created and structured by Congress to be independent — largely in reaction to the Watergate scandal. The fledgling agency’s mandate: enforce federal election laws, especially those that govern how political candidates, parties and committees raise, spend and disclose their money.

That's how the Center for Public Integrity describes the beginnings of the Federal Elections Commission. The task has never been easy - what with special interests not all that interested in seeing a watchdog prosper - but lately the FEC is just plain dysfunctional. From the report:

Disagreements on how to enforce election laws have contributed to a drop in agency fines for political committees that haven’t followed the letter of the law.

In 2006, the FEC assessed more than $6.7 million in fines — an all-time high — for violations ranging from not disclosing campaign donors to filing mandatory campaign finance reports late. By 2012, it collected less than $1 million in fines, one of its most meager years since 1995, according to agency records.

Commissioners are voting on far fewer enforcement matters, from more than 1,000 annually during the middle of last decade, to fewer than 200 annually early this decade — the result of an overtaxed staff and commissioner disagreement. In several dozen instances, commissioners either refused to approve enforcement settlements FEC attorneys had reached with an offending party or couldn’t get four votes in place to approve the general counsel’s recommendation to punish a candidate or committee. As of early December, the commission has yet to resolve 268 pending enforcement cases, agency officials confirm. Commissioners acknowledge the backlog is unacceptable.

How Washington starves its election watchdog here

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