Clean Election '16? FEC Chair Throws Up Her Hands

'People think the FEC is dysfunctional. It’s worse than dysfunctional'
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted May 3, 2015 10:44 AM CDT
Clean Election '16? FEC Chair Throws Up Her Hands
Ann Ravel, chairwoman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, at a news conference in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013.   (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

(Newser) – Sure, people moan about political kingmaking, the soaring cost of campaigns, and the money bombs both sides are dropping, but when the person doing the moaning is the chairwoman of the federal body set up to regulate money in politics, one tends to take notice. "The likelihood of the laws being enforced is slim," Federal Election Commission Chair Ann Ravel tells the New York Times, speaking of the 2016 election. "I never want to give up, but I’m not under any illusions. People think the FEC is dysfunctional. It’s worse than dysfunctional." The body is made up of three Democrats and three Republicans, notes the Times, describing the state of affairs thusly: "Some commissioners are barely on speaking terms, cross-aisle negotiations are infrequent, and with no consensus on which rules to enforce, the caseload against violators has plummeted."

"It’s the Wild West out there in some ways," says one campaign finance lawyer. Part of the issue: Presidential aspirants (looking at you, Martin O'Malley and Jeb Bush) are legitimately raising millions outside the FEC's purview by simple virtue of not having declared their candidacies. It's worth noting, however, that Ravel's complaint appears to be a Democratic one: Republicans see little issue with how the FEC is functioning, notes the Times, with one commissioner saying, "Congress set this place up to gridlock. The democracy isn't collapsing around us." Adds another: "We’re not interested in going after people unless the law is fairly clear, and we’re not willing to take the law beyond where it’s written," while Democrats tend to see the law "more broadly." (Read more Federal Election Commission stories.)

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