Bill Introduced to Fix America’s Election Watchdog

Thursday, U.S. Representatives Derek Kilmer (WA-06) and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) introduced the bipartisan Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act to reform the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) and enable it to more effectively carry out its mission to oversee and enforce campaign finance laws.

The FEC has increasingly become deadlocked on critically important decisions because of the even partisan divide of its six commissioners. In 2016, nearly 40% of regular enforcement cases deadlocked, compared to 4.2% in 2006. Worse yet, those votes that did not deadlock were nearly all housekeeping matters or minor violations. The Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act will revitalize the FEC by breaking the deadlock of its leadership structure and strengthening its enforcement actions through faster and more efficient processes. U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

“The Federal Elections Commission was set up to be the referee, tasked with blowing the whistle on politicians and groups that cheat and undermine the interests of ‘We the People’,” said Rep. Kilmer. “Unfortunately, in recent years, the ref often hasn’t even been on the field with the Commission often seeming more dysfunctional than even Congress. It’s time to get the referee back on the field. That’s what this bill is about. Meaningful, substantial reforms at the Commission need to happen so it can get back to weeding out campaign finance abuse and holding those who skirt the rules accountable.”

“The very foundation of our democracy is based upon the American people’s faith in our electoral system. Now, more than ever, it is vitally important we take steps to rebuild that faith,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “Ending the partisan gridlock at the Federal Election Commission will both increase transparency and re-instill confidence in the American people that all campaigns are held accountable and adhere to the same set of rules.”

“Free and fair elections are a central principle of our democracy. But the FEC has been mired in gridlock, leaving a campaign finance free-for-all that allows the voices of big corporations and special interests to drown out everyday Americans. It’s past time we put an end to it. Restoring power to the FEC is crucial to providing fair and transparent rulings on campaign finance violations and an important first step to overhauling our campaign finance system,” said Senator Van Hollen.

Under the Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act the number of appointed commissioners would be reduced from six to five, with two members from each major party and one independent. This change would bring the FEC more in line with how most other independent agencies are structured and end deadlock, while ensuring the president’s party would not hold the majority. Additionally, the legislation creates a Blue-Ribbon Advisory Panel, convened by the president to recommend individuals for appointment to the Commission. A fact sheet on the legislation can be found here. Bill text can be found here.

The legislation is endorsed by: Democracy21, End Citizens United, Common Cause, and Public Citizen. Yesterday, two former FEC Commissioners, Trevor Potter and Ann Ravel, endorsed provisions of the Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act in the For the People Act in a letter to Congressional leadership.

“Democracy 21 applauds Senators Van Hollen and Lujan and Representative Kilmer for introducing the Restoring Integrity to America’s Election Act which would repair the hopelessly ineffectual Federal Election Commission,” said Fred Wertheimer, President of Democracy21.

“Americans deserve to know who is trying to influence their voices and their votes. However, Mitch McConnell has ensured gridlock at the Federal Election Commission by promoting a bloc of FEC commissioners with records of working against the very laws they are charged with upholding,” said Beth Rotman, Director of Money in Politics & Ethics at Common Cause. “It’s long past due for the FEC to work for everyday Americans who can’t start a super PAC or make a big political contribution, and we applaud Senators Van Hollen and Lujan for introducing the Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act to help ensure the FEC works for all of us.”

“The FEC is broken, roiled in partisan gridlock. Under the current system, the party leaders of the senate select commissioners, which has carried over the same party polarization that has plagued Congress to the FEC. Deadlocked votes along party lines have gone from fewer than 2 percent through most of the agency’s history to a stifling 34 percent today, rendering the FEC toothless and dysfunctional. Restoring the Integrity of America’s Elections Act is critically-needed legislation that would end these partisan deadlocks and bring the campaign finance cop back on the beat,” said Craig Holman of Public Citizen.

“There has never been a more critical moment in our nation’s history to restore faith in our elections and bedrock institutions. Our country depends on a functioning Federal Election Commission that will actually enforce our nation’s campaign finance laws and meet the challenges of the 21st century. Passing the Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act is a necessary first step to address political dysfunction, and we commend Rep. Kilmer and Rep. Fitzpatrick for their bipartisan support on this important issue,” said Meredith McGehee, Executive Director of Issue One.

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