I am not one for hyperbole, but the 2020 Presidential election is extremely important. In addition to many local- and state-level races, the election will determine who will control Congress for the next two years, and who will occupy the White House for the next four years.
Heading into such consequential elections, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) would be a helpful tool in making sure that candidates for the United States House of Representatives, United States Senate, Presidency, and Vice Presidency were not running afoul of federal campaign finance law.
There’s one problem though—the FEC is not in a position to enforce federal campaign finance law heading into this. Why? Because the FEC needs at least four commissioners (out of six that could be in place) in order to enforce federal campaign finance law, and right now, the FEC is at…three commissioners. It was an issue noted the previous time the FEC lacked a quorum (which was just mere months ago), and it’s an issue again.
The reality is that this situation has been in the making for quite a while now. Back in 2018, one of the commissioners at the time, Lee Goodman, resigned and the FEC went down from five to four commissioners—the bare minimum needed for quorum. What this meant was that if one additional person resigned, retired, died, or was otherwise not present for an FEC meeting, the commission would lose the power to enforce campaign finance law. Therefore, when another of the commissioners, Matthew Petersen, resigned in August 2019, the FEC was left with only three commissioners, which was short of the quorum of four they needed to make any substantive decisions. Only when Republican Trey Trainor was confirmed did the FEC regain its ability to enforce campaign finance law, but it once again lost that ability when another of the commissioners, Caroline Hunter, resigned.
While we wait for there to be a quorum with our election commission, I can’t help but think that heading into this election year, we actually do have a major election integrity issue. But, the issue is not with fraud resulting from absentee voting—it’s with the lack of enforcement of campaign finance law because of an election commission that is not functioning properly. Unless this issue gets resolved, I worry that 2020 will be a bit of a “wild west” in terms of adherence (or lack thereof) to campaign finance laws.