Federal Election Commission

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The Federal Election Commission (FEC) was created by Congress in 1975 to "administer and enforce the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) - the statute that governs the financing of federal elections. The duties of the FEC, which is an independent regulatory agency, are to disclose campaign finance information, to enforce the provisions of the law such as the limits and prohibitions on contributions, and to oversee the public funding of Presidential elections." [1]

"The Commission is made up of six members, who are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Each member serves a six-year term, and two seats are subject to appointment every two years. By law, no more than three Commissioners can be members of the same political party, and at least four votes are required for any official Commission action. This structure was created to encourage nonpartisan decisions. The Chairmanship of the Commission rotates among the members each year, with no member serving as Chairman more than once during his or her term." [2]


Obama administration FEC Commissioners, as of May 2009, are: [1]

Bush era FEC lame duck commissioners

PoliticalMoneyLine reported May 1, 2007, that "the Federal Election Commission sinks to a new low in its thirty-two year history. With the expiration yesterday of the regular term of Commissioner Ellen Weintraub there is now no FEC Commissioner holding a regular term position at the agency. The FEC has positions for six Commissioners. One position is vacant after the resignation and departure of Michael Toner. The regular term of David Mason expired on April 30, 2003. The regular term of Ellen Weintraub expired on April 30, 2007. The Senate has never confirmed Hans von Spakovsky, Robert Lenhard, and Steven Walther. They were given recess appointments in January 2006. Each of these five acts as a Commissioner until their replacement is sworn into office." (Note: no direct link available.)

President Bush nominates new slate to FEC

With just two commissioners remaining on the FEC, President Bush on May 7, 2008 nominated a slate of three candidates to the crippled board: "Cynthia L. Bauerly, counsel for Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee; Caroline C. Hunter, the Republican vice chairman of the Election Assistance Commission; and Donald F. McGahn, counsel for the National Republican Congressional Committee."[2]

However, the president did not withdraw the nomination for Hans von Spakovsky, the former Justice Department lawyer at the center of a partisan confirmation fight. Democrats have accused von Spakovsky of enforcing voting rights laws for political gain. Sen Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) wants to hold individual votes on the nominees, while Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has fought to hold a vote on the entire slate.[2]

In addition to their objections over von Spakovsky, Democrats also expressed concern over the president's nomination of McGahn, who would replace Commissioner Mason. They said Mason was being replaced because he questioned whether presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) could legally withdraw from a public financing system.[2]

Breakdown over nominees

After stating that the "delay in considering his nomination" has placed strain on both his finances and family, Hans von Spakovsky withdrew his nomination on May 16, 2008. Since President George W. Bush and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could not come to an agreement regarding who should replace von Spakovsky, the appointment process came to a standstill late night on Wednesday May 22, 2008. Although the President offered a three page proposal of nominees, compromise could not be reached because there were no Democrats named on the list. [3]

Reid stated that he would ensure pro forma sessions occurred over the Memorial Day recess in order to prevent President Bush from appointing nominees in Congress' absence. The implications of the postponement of nominations can be seen in the absence of quorum to vote on countless issues, such as the public financing questions surrounding Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). [4]

Impasse resolved, five commissioners appointed

Five vacancies on the FEC were finally filled on June 24, 2008, when the Senate approved a slate of nominees. They included Cynthia L. Bauerly, Caroline C. Hunter, Donald F. McGahn and Matthew S. Petersen, while a prior recess appointee, Steven T. Walther, was approved for a full term on the commission.[5]

Contact information

Federal Election Commission
999 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20463
(800) 424-9530 | In Washington (202) 694-1100
Website: http://www.fec.gov

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. "Commissioners," Federal Election Commission website, accessed May 2009.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Paul Kane, "Bush Nominates 3 to a Crippled FEC", The Washington Post, May 7, 2008
  3. "Hans von Spakovsky withdraws FEC nomination", "Politico", May 16, 2008
  4. Susan Crabtree, "FEC agreement breaks down over nominees", The Hill, May 21, 2008
  5. Matthew Mosk, "Vacancies on FEC Filled As 5 Win Senate Approval," The Washington Post, June 25, 2008

External resources

External articles