“Every vote counts.”
“Throw the bastards out.”
“Election platitude #10.”
Every bit as meaningless as Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp.” The Beltway Swamp is drain-proof. The process that populates the swamp is rigged. Not in the “millions of illegal votes from illegals” way… or even the “I can see the Russians hacking the election from my house” way. It’s rigged because the only federal agency charged with making sure the election process is fair and equitable can’t — actually, won’t — do a single thing to ensure the process’ integrity.
Two years ago, the Federal Election Commission Chairwoman had this to say about the FEC’s powerlessness/uselessness:
“The likelihood of the laws being enforced is slim,” Ann M. Ravel, the chairwoman, said in an interview. “I never want to give up, but I’m not under any illusions. People think the F.E.C. is dysfunctional. It’s worse than dysfunctional.”
Post-election, this diagnosis has been confirmed. As government accountability research site MapLight reports, an FEC member has decided to exit the dysfunctional commission. On her way out the door, Ann Ravel released a letter and a report [PDF] plainly stating the FEC effectively serves zero purpose.
Ann Ravel, an FEC member appointed to the six-member regulatory panel in 2013 by former President Barack Obama, said the commission’s routine deadlocked votes are sending clear signals that campaign finance laws won’t be enforced.
“This incredibly significant Commission is not performing the job that Congress intended, and violators of the law are given a free pass,” Ravel wrote in “Dysfunction and Deadlock,” a 25-page report released with her resignation letter to President Donald Trump. “Because of this, candidates and committees are aware that they can ignore the laws enacted to protect the integrity of our elections.”
Partisan politics aren’t limited to the halls of Congress. The FEC is composed of six members — three from each side of the political aisle. (Third parties/independents aren’t recognized as possible participants in this process.) Reported campaign finance violations received by the Commission can only be addressed if a majority of members agree on moving forward. Because of the ideological split, fewer and fewer violations are being addressed. From the report:
The bloc has used the four vote requirement to take most action as unchecked veto power to delay and dismiss flagrant violations, impose significantly lower penalties, and leave major cases without resolution. In 2006, commissioners deadlocked in just 2.9% of substantive votes in Matters Under Review (“MURs”—also known as enforcement cases) closed that year. For MURs closed in 2016, the Commissioners deadlocked on 30% of all substantive votes taken in those matters. In 2006, only 4.2% of MURs closed had at least one deadlocked vote. However, in 2016, 37.5% of all MURs closed had at least one deadlocked vote.
This partisanship undercuts the commission’s singular purpose. The Supreme Court may hand down rulings on campaign finance transparency, but the court’s word is meaningless when no one’s willing to enforce it. As the report points out, since the court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, more than $800 million has flowed to federal election campaigns without its sources being disclosed.
Over the past ten years, the FEC has just become another inhabitant of the swamp it was supposed to help drain — long before President Trump made it a campaign platform. The FEC has devolved into separate factions glaring at each other over a stack of campaign finance violations neither is willing to address if it might adversely affect “their” party.
Suck it up, voters. The system only works as well as those who benefit from it most will allow it to. A house divided against itself
cannot stand stands to profit from years and years of two-party status quo.