Federal Election Commission Member Quits, Says Agency Refuses To Address Campaign Finance Violations

from the vestigial-state-organ dept

"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.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2017 @ 11:01am

    Ah yiss!

    Another victim of Georges prophecy!

    Keep it up folks. For every shit stain going shrill against Trump, you are equally as guilty as every shit stain going shrill against Obama. You are specifically allowing divisive issues to drive you into a frenzy to the point where your only recourse is to commit to the side willing to put up with your particular brand of divisive and cognitive dissonance.

    No Democrat has a right to complain about the election as Obama and the Dems had to blow their load on Obamacare instead of something far more meaningful. But I have often told those wacky dems that they keep sabotaging their own platform, but why listen to a stupid independent... they are just as bad as those fucking racist, misogynist, homophobic republicans!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      another anonymous stupid independent, 24 Feb 2017 @ 11:20am

      Re: Ah yiss!

      Yea, that pretty muchly sum it up.

      Of course congress is going to fix it by:
      Enacting Term Limits
      Fix the election laws outlawing citizens united
      Make insider trading by members of government illegal
      Give every American big environmentally safe heaters, because hell is freezing over.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Rapnel (profile), 24 Feb 2017 @ 11:25am

      Re: Ah yiss!

      I'm sorry but which part of that little "I'm so right and you all suck" soliloquy actually meant something?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Thad, 24 Feb 2017 @ 2:53pm

      Re: Ah yiss!

      What the fuck are you talking about?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2017 @ 4:28pm

      Re: Ah yiss!

      Yes both sides are equally bad.....

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2017 @ 8:03am

        Re: Re: Ah yiss!

        "both sides are equally bad"

        I find this position to be lacking in any sort of logic.
        It is more like a "fuck it, I give up" response.

        Human nature states that no one is perfect, everyone has flaws, makes mistakes ... blah blah ...... however this well established fact being used to cover blatant activity is offensive.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2017 @ 8:17pm

      Re: Ah yiss!

      > Keep it up folks.

      What is it that I should keep up?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Unanimous Cow Herd, 24 Feb 2017 @ 11:32am

    No enforcement?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2017 @ 12:19pm

      Re: No enforcement?

      That is what happens when you let the powers-that-be police the powers-that-be.

      What did you expect, really?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 24 Feb 2017 @ 11:43am

    I, we, all of us..

    WE ALL, selected from the barrel..
    But what did we Get from the barrel..
    Did we want an Apple a Pickle, a bag of Starch??

    WHAT requirements do WE ASK to run for Any public office??
    Education? Experience? At least video game play designed around the JOB??

    Or are most just Lawyers that got out of School and ran to register to be a candidate..
    With MONEY BACKING from the 2 major groups..
    WHO do you see on TV? the person with the MOST money!!
    NOT ALWAYS the best candidate..(almost NEVER)

    Know why MOST of the older people DONT VOTE?? we have watched this for years and years..
    Ever HEAR of EQUAL TIME? for all the groups.. Its irrelevant.. the 2 major parties VOLUNTEER(?) to pay exorbitant amounts for Commercial time.. which puts EQUAL TIME out of reach..
    Equal time was put into place to Give time to ALL sides, if a company or Corp were to GIVE Time to a Favored Candidate..
    But the PARTY PAYS for it..which does NOT make it Equal time.
    ITS A MONEY GAME..

    Iv also mentioned to Many to Look up the families..Its a FAMILY THING most time.. Many of these people have been in Office for a few Generations.. There is very little NEW blood in most of the offices.

    WHAt do these people have to DO, for the 2 major GROUPS to pay off what they have DONE for them??
    NOTHING IS FREE..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2017 @ 4:30pm

      Re: I, we, all of us..

      Can I email you?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2017 @ 8:48pm

      Re: I, we, all of us..

      "Know why MOST of the older people DONT VOTE??"

      Most older people do vote; damned near religiously (as in, never miss the chance to do so; they're unionized, doncha know). It's the youth who can't be bothered to. Where've you been for the past few decades, space cadet?

      You're ignorant (and possibly a fool as well).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    clemahieu (profile), 24 Feb 2017 @ 12:40pm

    Unconstitutional

    It's illegal for the federal government to regulate elections, they've been given no authority to do so.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2017 @ 8:54pm

      Re: Unconstitutional

      "It's illegal for the federal government to regulate elections, they've been given no authority to do so."

      When the sheepdog's too apathetic to watch out for wolves, the lambs get eaten. Why's this surprise anyone?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 24 Feb 2017 @ 1:34pm

    So...monarchy then?

    Pointing fingers is going to get us nowhere. If we're all in agreement that a) the system is broken, and b) the system can't be fixed within the system, then that means we need to start a campaign to fix it outside the system.

    But then we're talking taking up arms, or sabotage, or really massive life-threatening protests.

    If no one is willing to do that, then yeah, we're going to stay with the same shit system until things break even more. And we'll keep sucking it up until someone does take up that mantle, and enough people follow.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Rapnel (profile), 24 Feb 2017 @ 2:28pm

      Re: So...monarchy then?

      Yes. And then we have the general panic of government over mass communications (i.e. internet) answered with the furious pace of invasive government intrusion into those communications. A sealing off of the exists, if you will.

      First they came for the immigrants..

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2017 @ 1:49pm

    Politics' Biggest Red Herring

    SuperPAC spending fails to have a statistically significant influence on elections.
    Trump UNDERspends both Jeb Bush and Hilary Clinton, wins the election.

    Can we ever finally, finally admit that money is not the problem? And EVERY SINGLE ATTEMPT to "get money out of politics" has made things worse, not better?

    Cap individual contributions to a candidate, breed "Super-bundlers."
    Limit fundraising by a campaign, the money shifts to the parties.
    Limit party spending, SuperPACs start accumulating cash and running relentless "issue ads"
    Layer on piles of paperwork for "transparency", highly-paid consultants pop out of the woodwork to help hide income and spending.

    This is a fools errand. Show me any other element of life that you can just 'get the money' out. Money is not the problem, it's the lack of transparency and overall voter apathy/partisanship that is the problem.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Thad, 24 Feb 2017 @ 2:59pm

      Re: Politics' Biggest Red Herring

      Trump UNDERspends both Jeb Bush and Hilary Clinton, wins the election.

      He also lost the popular vote.

      Can we ever finally, finally admit that money is not the problem?

      Even if your thesis were accurate, no. "SuperPACs don't affect elections" does not imply "money is not the problem". At best, it would imply that SuperPAC money is no the problem.

      Money is very definitely a problem, it's just not the only problem.

      And EVERY SINGLE ATTEMPT to "get money out of politics" has made things worse, not better?

      I was a big fan of McCain-Feingold. Arizona's Clean Elections is pretty good too.

      In what way do you believe "EVERY SINGLE ATTEMPT" has, all-caps, made "things" worse?

      Cap individual contributions to a candidate, breed "Super-bundlers." Limit fundraising by a campaign, the money shifts to the parties. Limit party spending, SuperPACs start accumulating cash and running relentless "issue ads" Layer on piles of paperwork for "transparency", highly-paid consultants pop out of the woodwork to help hide income and spending.

      Okay, nothing on that list actually indicates that money is not a problem; in fact, every single one of those hypotheticals is a reason why money is a problem.

      You don't seem to think it's a soluble problem. Okay, but an insoluble problem is still a problem.

      Money is not the problem, it's the lack of transparency and overall voter apathy/partisanship that is the problem.

      There's more than one problem, Anon.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2017 @ 4:35pm

      Re: Politics' Biggest Red Herring

      Trump isn't really a good example. He received vast amounts of free coverage/airtime during the primaries and election. This is "money."

      Second, there is some data showing that money can/does affect smaller elections (state/local), where the Republicans made large gains in the past few elections, and where the sums of money required are smaller.

      Your defeatist attitude is sad. Also, you listed transparency as both a problem and a solution.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Tom Mink (profile), 24 Feb 2017 @ 2:36pm

    Memorable quote

    I'm surprised you didn't use her memorable quote from an interview on The Daily Show -

    "I would say that the FEC and men's nipples are probably comparable. There are things that are done that have some value, just like men's nipples"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Châu, 24 Feb 2017 @ 6:22pm

    International Election Monitors

    No international monitors in US?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2017 @ 9:23pm

      Re: International Election Monitors

      "No international monitors in US?"

      The whole world "monitors" what the US does. It's only sensible to know where the biggest a-hole in the neighborhood is at any given time. That doesn't suggest any capability on the monitors' part to police said a-hole's proclivities or actions.

      I watch from the sidelines cheering them on into their self-inflicted oblivion (hopefully, without taking us with them :-). Historically, they'll be a better example than Imperial Rome: "How to blow it all spectacularly."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    OGquaker, 25 Feb 2017 @ 3:33am

    works the other way, also

    I've been the State Treasurer of the Green Party Of California since 2011, current total monetary assets $20k, see public records at http://www.sos.ca.gov/
    Infraction of minutia within the California F.P.P.C.
    created fines of a few $hundred a year, most were invariably forgiven, mostly 'late reports'.
    The same problem is now costing me $20 a day, and each month the monetary thresholds and calendar timing, that is, the question 'is some kind of a report due, 460's, et al' changes all during the year, and the SOS may send me notice of my 'failure' 10 or 15 weeks later!
    We pay $2,500/ year for mandated FTP reporting software, and I have a lucky ~$8k in fines against my personal bank account presently.
    Since California Proposition 14 a new $50 fee is due each and every January 15 for EVERY committee, even if you run unopposed for a tiny Water Board.

    California Proposition 14 & the state DemoRepug legislator have all but wiped other 'Partys' off our ballots.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2017 @ 4:01pm

      Re: works the other way, also

      US elections are "reasonable" democratic and free.

      The process is far too fragmented and diverse for meaningful ballot-manipulation to be effective (it is also the most likely to be found out and carries hefty prison-sentences). No, the ways to subvert US elections are through crappy rules (FEC is a main driver in that), gerrymandering (politicians drawing lines on maps to win elections on paper), vote-reducing efforts of different kinds (a speciality of super-PACs) and pressuring voters to vote a certain way (particular groupings are rather good at that).

      FEC is probably the main systemic reason for third party candidates getting suppressed. As it is shown here, they are unwilling to enforce rules that might hurt their own parties.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        The Wanderer (profile), 26 Feb 2017 @ 4:23am

        Re: Re: works the other way, also

        Of the subversion methods you listed, I'd think the FEC would be the _least_ important, aside possibly from "pressuring voters to vote a certain way". What basis do you have for considering it "probably the main systemic reason for third party candidates getting suppressed"?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2017 @ 9:43pm

      Re: works the other way, also

      "(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."

      I doubt even (yeah, Godwin; FO!) H. Himmler would've wanted the foxes and wolves policing his hen houses. Why's the US allow it?

      The FEC is controlled by Congress, why? Because they've got away with it, so far, smiple[sic]. You don't want that? Then fix it, ffs!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    timmaguire42 (profile), 25 Feb 2017 @ 4:10am

    Most of the FEC's remit is blatantly unconstitutional under the first amendment, so I'm not too upset that they are so dysfunctional that they can't quash people's basic rights as efficiently as some desire.

    They don't play any role in Trump's promise to drain the swamp--a vital promise that he is currently putting the necesary pieces in place to fulfill. (Whether or not he's successful--the swamp is tenacious and self-refilling.) any sane sensible person who cares about good government should be supporting him in this effort.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2017 @ 7:19am

      Re:

      "Trump's promise to drain the swamp--a vital promise that he is currently putting the necesary pieces in place to fulfill."

      Ummm - wut?

      Perhaps there is a difference in definitions here but it appears to many that he is replacing the swamp with his own swamp, it is still a swamp - full of old decrepit rotting bullshit. You can put lipstick on a swamp, but it remains a swamp.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2017 @ 9:09pm

      Re:

      "They don't play any role in Trump's promise to drain the swamp--a vital promise that he is currently putting the necesary pieces in place to fulfill."

      Do you seriously believe this? That Trump is either capable of, or seriously intent on, fixing this?

      Thanks for the giggle (not that it really helped in any way).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 27 Feb 2017 @ 6:06am

      Re:

      Tim, the point is to address corruption in the way that parties and politicians conduct themselves during elections; do you really think there's any value in kicking the security guard off the premises and hoping it won't be robbed?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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