Category: The Federal Election Commission

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New Law Brings Major Changes to the FEC’s Administrative Fine Program — and New Challenges for Independent Expenditures

On December 26, President Obama signed into law a bill to extend the Federal Election Commission’s administrative fine program.  The new law broadens the program significantly, in ways that will especially affect those who make independent expenditures. The administrative fine program allows the FEC to collect fines on a streamlined basis, and on fixed schedules, … Continue Reading

In Final 2013 Meeting, FEC Approves Audit Division Recommendation and Legislative Recommendations, Elects 2014 Officers

In its last public meeting of 2013, the FEC unanimously approved a set of legislative recommendations, as well as an audit division recommendation on the North Dakota Republican Party. Commenting on the audit division recommendation, which established that the party committee misstated its financial activity, Commissioner Goodman remarked that registration and reporting errors are common … Continue Reading

FEC Deadlocks over Advisory Opinion Request on Corporate Affiliation

At yesterday’s public meeting, the Federal Election Commission deadlocked on party lines over an advisory opinion request from Yamaha Motor Corporation U.S.A., which sought to establish a “separate segregated fund” (SSF) to solicit contributions from Yamaha dealers. The Commission also deadlocked on a 3-3 vote over a similar request from Yamaha last year, and, in … Continue Reading

FEC Deadlocks on Bitcoin Contributions, Tea Party Reporting Exemption

At today’s public meeting, the Federal Election Commission deadlocked on two advisory opinion requests and approved a third. Both deadlocked votes split along party lines between the Democratic- and Republican-selected Commissioners. The Commission first considered a request from the Conservative Action Fund PAC that was held over from last week’s meeting. The request asked whether … Continue Reading

Discussion, But No Vote on Bitcoin Contributions at FEC Meeting

At its public meeting yesterday, while the Federal Election Commission reached unanimous agreement on three matters, it held over the fourth and most controversial—an advisory opinion request from the Conservative Action Fund PAC (CAF), which seeks to accept contributions in the form of Bitcoins, an unregulated “virtual currency” that allows users to make payments to … Continue Reading

Few Tricks, Some Treats as Two New FEC Commissioners Start Work on Halloween

For the first time since January, the Federal Election Commission held a meeting at which a majority of six Commissioners agreed on an advisory opinion.  At its public meeting today, the Commission welcomed Lee Goodman and Ann Ravel to its ranks.  Commissioner Goodman came from a private practice in which he represented Republican candidates and … Continue Reading

A Now-Full FEC Must Confront Issues With its Staff, Rules and Authority

With Commissioner Ann Ravel sworn in on October 25, and Commissioner Lee Goodman on October 23, the Federal Election Commission has a full complement of Commissioners for the first time since February. They face some matters that should be of urgent concern to all, whatever one’s views on campaign finance regulation. For example: 1. Staff. … Continue Reading

FEC Documents Reveal Questions of Law and Strategy—Not Just Ideology

In Bloomberg BNA’s Money and Politics Report, Kenneth P. Doyle reviewed a number of documents produced by the Federal Election Commission under the Freedom of Information Act.  Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sued the FEC to obtain documents from the files of Republican Commissioners, and then published these documents on its web site.  … Continue Reading

Commissioner McGahn

The sharp divide over Donald F. McGahn II’s performance on the Federal Election Commission obscures the questions of why he had such an impact on the agency, and what the long-term significance of that impact will be. Alone among the five with whom he served, save for Ellen Weintraub, McGahn came to the FEC directly … Continue Reading

After Contentious, Impromptu Debate on Enforcement Procedures, FEC Deadlocks on Two Advisory Opinion Requests, Approves a Third

Before the Federal Election Commission took up the scheduled agenda at today’s public meeting, a contentious debate broke out over its continued inability to agree on whether and how to revise its enforcement procedures. Commissioners have disagreed over how to handle fact-finding during enforcement investigations, as well as proposed guidelines on information sharing with the … Continue Reading

FEC Bitcoin Request Shows That Campaign Finance Laws Don’t Work in a Vacuum

The Federal Election Commission has authority only to interpret, enforce and administer the federal campaign finance laws.  When it receives a request for an advisory opinion, it decides only how these laws apply to the proposed transaction.  One of the most familiar pieces of boilerplate at the end of an FEC advisory opinion is the … Continue Reading

Super PAC FEC Reports Beg the Question—Who Else Will Spend in 2014?

The July 31 deadline for filing Federal Election Commission reports brought media stories that compared the fundraising totals of Democratic and Republican super PACs, much like the stories that compare the candidates’ financial situation at the end of each fundraising quarter.  But while significant to some degree, these stories are incomplete, in much the same … Continue Reading

FEC Approves Three Advisory Opinions, Postpones Consideration of a Fourth

At yesterday’s public meeting, the Commission considered advisory opinion requests from the following individuals and organizations: Democratic Governors Association and Jobs & Opportunity (AO 2013-04) Representative Elton Gallegly (AO 2013-05) Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (AO 2013-06) Dan Winslow for US Senate Committee (AO 2013-07) A final ruling on the first opinion, which was requested by … Continue Reading

For the Third Time, FEC Postpones Discussion of Enforcement Procedures

The Federal Election Commission again postponed what is likely to be a contentious debate over proposed changes to their enforcement procedures, resulting in a brief and uneventful open meeting today.  Following federal law, the Commission unanimously passed a final rule to apply inflation adjustments to certain civil monetary penalties.  Before the vote, Commissioner McGahn noted … Continue Reading

Decoding the Dispute Between the FEC and Its Lawyers Over Sharing Information with DOJ

Recent days have seen an extraordinary release of documents by the Federal Election Commission about when its Office of General Counsel (OGC) shares information with the United States Department of Justice. The debate over information sharing, which the Commission is expected to take up soon, is important for many reasons.  It involves the Commission’s compliance … Continue Reading

FEC Reinforces Reporting Requirements for Political Committees

At yesterday’s open meeting, the Federal Election Commission unanimously voted to require increased disclosure on the part of political committees and postponed for the second time what is likely to be a lively debate over the Office of General Counsel’s enforcement manual. Chair Weintraub predicted that at the next public meeting, scheduled for July 11th, … Continue Reading

FEC Postpones Major Decisions, Unanimously Approves Advisory Opinion and Audit Report

In its first open meeting in nearly a month and its first since General Counsel Anthony Herman announced he will be leaving the agency for private practice, the Federal Election Commission made two unanimous decisions and postponed two others for the next public meeting, scheduled to be held two weeks from today. One of the … Continue Reading

In FEC Case, D.C. Circuit Paves Different Paths to Courthouse for Parties, Other Groups

Last week, in the case of Wagner v. FEC, the D.C. Circuit issued a ruling that neither the plaintiff, Wendy Wagner, nor the defendant, the Federal Election Commission, had wanted—or anticipated.  In that case, Wagner and two other individuals who had contracts with the United States government were challenging a federal law that prohibits government contractors … Continue Reading

FEC Divide on ‘Personal Use’ Rules Shows Potential for Confusion

Two things were notable about MUR 6672, released last week by the Federal Election Commission, which involved the payment of $805.13 by Florida U.S. Representative Gus Bilirakis’ campaign to the Royal Order of Jesters for membership dues. The Commission deadlocked on party lines over whether there was reason to believe that Representative Bilirakis illegally converted … Continue Reading

Ensign Case Shows How FEC Allegations Can Be a Multi-Front War for Candidates, Third Parties

As noted above, the Federal Election Commission obtained civil penalties from former Senator John Ensign and his parents totaling more than $50,000, for making and receiving excessive contributions and failing to disclose them to the FEC.  For the much-maligned former Senator, this news has been described as a footnote – a “sad end to a … Continue Reading