Three Big Ways the For the People Act Would Fix the FEC

Federal election Commission
The Federal Election Commission. Photo by Casey Atkins/Campaign Legal Center.

Republican and Democratic former chairs of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) Trevor Potter and Ann Ravel sent a bipartisan letter of support for the FEC reforms in the For the People Act (H.R.1/S.1) to leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives. The steps outlined in H.R.1 to strengthen the agency will fix the failures of the FEC to enforce campaign finance laws.

The FEC is responsible for enforcing the laws that govern the U.S. campaign finance system for campaigns for president and Congress. It is the only government agency whose sole responsibility is overseeing the integrity of our political campaigns, and for the past decade, it has routinely failed to open investigations, enforce violations, or update campaign finance regulations.

The agency routinely deadlocks and fails to reach the required four votes necessary to open an investigation, even when presented with overwhelming evidence of possible violations to the Federal Election Campaign Act.

At the same time, there has been an increase in candidates, parties, and independent organizations pushing the envelope, violating the law and operating under the safe assumption that any punishment is unlikely to be enforced by the FEC.

To fix the FEC, the For the People Act draws from the bipartisan Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act, which was introduced with Republican and Democratic co-sponsors in the last three sessions of Congress.

The current structure of the FEC means that any three Commissioners can paralyze the agency. Under current law, the FEC is led by six Commissioners nominated by the president, no more than three of whom can be from the same political party.

H.R.1/S.1 would restructure the FEC in three significant ways by:

  1. Changing the number of Commissioners from six to five, with the requirement that no more than two Commissioners be members of the same political party.
  2. Creating a nonpartisan advisory panel to identify and recommend qualified nominees.
  3. Strengthening the enforcement process to prevent Commissioners from shutting down investigations at an early stage.

The FEC’s inaction has resulted in an explosion in secret spending and our politics increasingly rigged in favor of wealthy special interests. To reduce corruption and protect the voices of voters in our democracy, we need a stronger FEC that will enforce campaign finance law. The For the People Act would fix the FEC.

Read the full letter.

Tracy handles media relations for the CLC campaign finance and ethics teams and creates online content.
Congressional Support for Democracy Reform Has a Bipartisan History