The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is not exactly known for progressive work on campaign finance. There is a lot of money flowing through elections, and because of current law, there is little transparency that would allow anyone to find out where it comes from. Well, anyone aside from heads of campaigns.
Times are a changin’ though. Two Democratic members of the FEC — Ann Ravel, the agency’s chairwoman, and Ellen Weintraub — have filed a petition to their own agency that seeks new rules which would place stiffer regulation on spending and reveal the people behind campaign contributions. Speaking to USA Today, Weintraub said the reason not much is changing in the FEC is because of partisan politics which results in Republicans voting one way and Democrats the opposite. There is no compromise, so there is often a 3-3 vote on important issues.
“Desperate times call for desperate measures,” Weintraub said of the petition. “The normal routes are not working.”
Unfortunately for her and Ravel’s aims, it is exactly that gridlock which could halt any action related to campaign finance. The petition does not force any rules into place. It only opens the floor for public comment which may have the effect of bringing the issue into tight focus. Yet there are many other issues on the table that already hold the attention of other agency members and could still dwarf finance-related concerns even with the heat of public comment.
Those hot-button issues, continues the USA Today, include the revision of state and local political rules, expanding administrative fines, and updating disclosure forms. Those issues appear to already have more support on both sides of the aisle which could make them better topic choices for present focus. However, the next presidential election is coming soon, and individuals are dedicating a lot of money to the candidates this year.
The petition calls for a number of revisions to current law such as making sure election contributors are named, barring federal candidates from appearing at super PAC events (political action committees conduct events to pool funds for candidates), barring financial support from U.S.-based subsidiaries of foreign companies, and placing limits on the amount of money outside groups can raise in the name of individual candidates.
Ravel and Weintraub will have a long way to go. There is a lot riding against them — the partisan politics and other, arguably-more important issues on the table — but this play is something the FEC has never seen before. This dream within a dream, so to speak, could gain traction with enough public support. What do you think?
Featured Image courtesy of Pierre Réveillé via Flickr.