I continue to be flabbergasted at the rationale behind funding federal enforcement agencies that do not enforce the laws. Any excuse for not enforcing existing laws is unacceptable. The hypocrisy of having laws and not enforcing them is more dangerous to a society than no rules at all. The existing campaign finance regulations are woefully insufficient, but even those are not enforced by the agency charged with that responsibility, the Federal Election Commission.
The commission consists of six members – three Democrats and three Republicans, nominated by their respective parties. Because that’s an even number, no ruling can have effect unless it gets at least a 4-2 vote. Getting that fourth vote is often impossible, but even when it does, the slap on the wrist ‘punishment’ is hardly newsworthy. From fiscal 2006 to 2010, the average fine levied against campaigns, parties and political action committees for violating campaign finance law was only $42,000 (consider that the average winning campaign for the House costs $1.4Million and for the Senate costs $8Million). This level of penalty doesn’t deter unlawful behavior at all. The whole point of a penalty is to instill fear into those would-be violators of being caught.
This sub-par performance by the FEC isn’t even the problem of the day for this agency. Five of the six current commissioners continue to serve despite expired terms, and three openly flaunt their routine refusal to enforce existing campaign finance laws, even where the FEC’s professional staff has called for an investigation. The organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington coordinated a petition to President Obama that reached the threshold of 25,000 signatures before February 10, 2012. According to the platform established by the White House, the petition would receive an official response. Finally, after 5:00 pm last Friday four months later, the administration issued a vague, lackluster response.
President Obama had promised during the 2008 campaign to appoint new commissioners to the FEC who would be committed to enforcing our nation’s election laws. “With the 2012 elections right around the corner and millions of dollars flowing in to fund deceptive ads designed to mislead voters, the agency charged with regulating campaign spending – the FEC – is a useless mess,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “Assurances from the White House that the president really, really cares about campaign finance law are no substitute for real action. The president needs to nominate new commissioners now.”
Congress and the President obviously have a selfish interest in preventing any reform of the FEC; after all, they are the targets of enforcement actions. This is yet another example of our federal government being manipulated in an unethical and corrupt manner to allow elected officials to escape accountability. The danger of unaccountable elite ruling our society cannot be overstated.