Resignation Leaves Federal Election Watchdog Without Authority to Take Official Action

FEC is only government agency dedicated to overseeing the integrity of our political campaigns

WASHINGTON – Matthew Petersen, the vice chairman of the Federal Election Commission (FEC), submitted a letter of resignation today to take affect this week; his departure will leave the agency with three vacancies and only three sitting commissioners, all serving on expired terms. The agency is prohibited by law from taking any official enforcement or regulatory action without a quorum of at least four commissioners. The FEC is the only government agency dedicated to overseeing the integrity of political campaigns, but the often-overlooked agency has been increasingly stymied in recent years by three-three or two-two deadlocks caused by commissioners who are ideologically opposed to enforcement of campaign finance laws.

Trevor Potter, president of Campaign Legal Center (CLC) and a former Republican Chairman of the FEC, released the following statement:

“President Trump and the U.S. Senate should treat this resignation as an emergency and agree on the nomination and confirmation of a new slate of FEC commissioners who are qualified for the job and committed to enforcing our nation’s election laws. Without a functioning election watchdog, the vulnerabilities in U.S. elections that were exposed in 2016 by Russia will be exploited to greater effect by foreign and domestic actors in the 2020 election and beyond. The public’s right to fair and transparent elections is at stake. In the 2020 election, political spending is expected to reach nearly $10 billion. With the campaign season in full swing, there is no time to waste in securing our democracy. Russia exploited a weak FEC to covertly meddle in U.S. elections through digital ads and the FEC has a pending rulemaking to tighten disclosure requirements. If President Trump and the U.S. Senate commit to restoring the FEC, we could properly police foreign interference in elections, prevent illegal coordination between candidates and super PACs, stop government contractors from attempting to buy contracts with campaign donations, and much more.”

Between 1999 and 2008, the FEC issued $33.6 million in fines (adjusted for inflation) for campaign finance violations. But over the next ten years, 2009 to 2018, the amount of fines dropped to just $11.4 million, even as more money has been spent in each election cycle.