Another politicization scandal at the FEC?

posted at 12:01 pm on July 12, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Let’s play Guess The Federal Agency in order to see where the next political scandal may originate. Here are a few hints: This bureaucracy supposedly has safeguards to prevent politicization, enforces a broad, arcane, and contradictory regulatory and statutory code, and treats potential targets of investigations as guilty unless they prove themselves innocent.  Wait a moment … I just described nearly every federal agency in existence.  My bad.

In this case, though, I’m talking about the Federal Election Commission, which is tasked with enforcing the Byzantine, irrational campaign regulations put in place over the last several decades on federal candidates and officeholders.  Theoretically, as the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel explains, these investigations have to get bipartisan approval from the equally-apportioned commissioners.  Lately, though, the FEC has lost control of its bureaucracy — and the White House likes that just fine, thanks to their choice of targets:

The FEC was created in the wake of Watergate, in part to remove primary power over political actors from the Justice Department. It sports an equal number of Democratic and Republican commissioners, so that neither side can easily impose a partisan agenda. This means a lot of deadlocks, a situation that infuriates the left, which prefers a fire-and-brimstone regulator.

It also frustrates the FEC’s staff, which has responded by going around the commissioners. The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), for instance, makes it clear that staff may not commence investigations until a bipartisan majority (four members) of the commission votes that there is a “reason to believe” a violation has occurred. In theory, this provision should guard against IRS-like witch hunts.

Except that over the years staff have come to ignore the law, and routinely initiate their own inquiries—often on little more than accusations they find on blogs or Facebook. For a sense of how these investigations can go off the rails, consider that Lois Lerner—before serving as the center of today’s IRS scandal—was the senior enforcement officer at the FEC. A Christian Coalition lawyer has testified that during a (sanctioned) FEC investigation in the 1990s—in addition to generating endless subpoenas, depositions and document requests, Ms. Lerner’s staff demanded to know what Coalition members discussed at their prayer meetings and what churches they belonged to. Once staff gets rolling, there is little to stop them.

More troubling to some FEC commissioners has been the staff’s unsanctioned and growing ties to the Obama Justice Department. In September 2011, Tony Herman was named FEC general counsel. Mr. Herman in early 2012 brought in Dan Petalas, a Justice prosecutor, as head of the agency’s enforcement section. FECA is clear that a bipartisan majority of commissioners must vote to report unlawful conduct to law enforcement. Yet FEC staff have increasingly been sending agency content to Justice without informing the commission.

The structure of the commission is supposed to keep the lid on politicization. Any investigator at the FEC might have a particular political bias, which is why FECA requires a majority of the commission to refer cases to prosecutors.  That is an important safety valve, not just for the potential targets of an investigation, but also for free political activity.  If career bureaucrats can sic prosecutors on innocent Americans simply for engaging in political activities that go against the taste of the bureaucracy, then the FEC’s unaccountable organization will have plenty of leeway into squelching such activity even if it’s perfectly lawful.

This mirrors the kind of abuse we have seen at the IRS.  It also has the same root cause — the labyrinth of irrational and arbitrary designations of money in politics.  If the US reformed its campaign-finance regulatory regime to allow unlimited contributions directly to candidates and parties with immediate disclosure of the amounts and identities of all contributions, two outcomes would be produced.  Most political money would go directly to candidates and parties, forcing them to be responsible for the messaging and providing a much higher degree of transparency.  That would eliminate most of the IRS issues with tax-exempt classifications, and it would also simplify the FEC’s job to enforcement of disclosures.  All of this would make compliance a lot easier for everyone, and encourage more political involvement.

Rearranging personnel in both bureaucracies misses the point.  In order to solve the problems of abuse of power and eliminate the incentives for it, we have to reduce the power and reach of both agencies.  That requires smart reform, not more arbitrary and irrational barriers to true transparency.


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Barack Milhouse O’bama.

Del Dolemonte on July 12, 2013 at 12:05 PM

Shouldn’t the FEC be investigating the IRS scandal?

faraway on July 12, 2013 at 12:06 PM

Let’s play Guess The Federal Agency in order to see where the next political scandal may originate.

I’m sure, if one looks closely, scandals are to be found in every federal agency, the better to be publicized and continue to draw attention away from the more important devious activities of the WH and CONgress.

hawkeye54 on July 12, 2013 at 12:06 PM

Where’d you get the old pic of Gérard Depardieu?

Marcola on July 12, 2013 at 12:07 PM

Shouldn’t the FEC be investigating the IRS scandal?

faraway on July 12, 2013 at 12:06 PM

Shouldn’t all but maybe three or four federal agencies be abolished? That might make it easier to keep an eye on oversight and save a ton of money from potential scandals and the ensuing investigations.

hawkeye54 on July 12, 2013 at 12:09 PM

Obama is using every agency of the US government to wage war on his enemies.

A new joke circulating the office (and I’ve seen it on the web) goes like this; Why bother with Carbonite? The NSA has all your files backed up…

Black humor. ( Sorry is that a racist term now? )

dogsoldier on July 12, 2013 at 12:11 PM

Obama has turned the Federal Government into the Democratic Party Election team.
It’s logo?
A Democrat donkey doin’ the nasty to real dumb-looking Republican Elephant.

albill on July 12, 2013 at 12:11 PM

Why do all these stories give me the irresistable urge to purchase more ammo?

SailorMark on July 12, 2013 at 12:12 PM

The real root cause is that liberals are totalitarians who’s one true god is power and its exercise against those who disagree with them.

jnelchef on July 12, 2013 at 12:15 PM

Why bother with Carbonite? The NSA has all your files backed up…

dogsoldier on July 12, 2013 at 12:11 PM

haha

The deficit could be paid off if we all paid $19.99 per month for this essential service.

faraway on July 12, 2013 at 12:15 PM

It’s who counts the votes that matter.

Flange on July 12, 2013 at 12:15 PM

Why do all these stories give me the irresistable urge to purchase more ammo?

SailorMark on July 12, 2013 at 12:12 PM

You’ve found some to purchase? I can’ t seem to find any!

wolverinefan on July 12, 2013 at 12:18 PM

Let’s play Guess The Federal Agency in order to see where the next political scandal may originate.

I’m sure, if one looks closely, scandals are to be found in every federal agency, the better to be publicized and continue to draw attention away from the more important devious activities of the WH and CONgress.

hawkeye54 on July 12, 2013 at 12:06 PM

Yep; we already know for a fact that corruptocrats in the IRS were able to identify conservatives to the ATF, FBI, OSHA and other Labor, among other departments. I have no doubt that all of the REB’s departments took part in the attacks on TEA Party and other conservative organizations.

In fact I have to chuckle at posters that assume that somehow the NSA is not susceptible to corruption for some unknown reason.

slickwillie2001 on July 12, 2013 at 12:18 PM

Where’d you get the old pic of Gérard Depardieu?

Marcola on July 12, 2013 at 12:07 PM

That guy really gets around, he’s also the acting judge in the Zimmerman trial.

slickwillie2001 on July 12, 2013 at 12:20 PM

The deficit could be paid off if we all paid $19.99 per month for this essential service.

Oh, puh-lease, don’t give them ideas!

ugottabekiddingme on July 12, 2013 at 12:24 PM

Big government is bad government. Why is that so hard to understand?

Chris of Rights on July 12, 2013 at 12:27 PM

OT: another train derails, in Paris. Coincidence?

faraway on July 12, 2013 at 12:30 PM

That hair says pure awesomness. I bet he was the life of the party, in the back of Spicoli’s van.

MNHawk on July 12, 2013 at 12:32 PM

“Fundamental transformation, bitches. You thought I was joking?”

Barack Obama

Sacramento on July 12, 2013 at 12:34 PM

The FEC was created in the wake of Watergate, in part to remove primary power over political actors from the Justice Department. It sports an equal number of Democratic and Republican commissioners, so that neither side can easily impose a partisan agenda.

FAIL!

o Immediately after the 2008 election, Atty General Eric Holder stepped in to drop charges against New Black Panther members who were arrested for brandishing weapons and intimidating voters at a polling location. If you consider the fact that during the campaign Obama’s web site proudly displayed the New Black Panther’s endorsement of his candidacy and a link to their web page…until it was discovered and reported, at which time it was removed from the web site – if you consider that along with what Holder did to help their members out, it is obvious that Obama was protecting his supporters.

o During Obama’s 1st term, Atty General Eric holder, according to whistleblowers, directed the DOJ to ignore cases of reverse discrimination and to aggressively persue discrimination cases.

o During the Fast & Furious Congressional Hearings, Atty General Eric Holder perpetrated 3 Felony Counts of Perjury, under oath before Congress, in order to perpetrate this cover-up AND refused to release documents Congress asked for. Holder is not in jail ONLY because the Obama administration’s DOJ REFUSED to press charges against their boss. Instead, left with no other option, Congress held Holder in Contempt and Censured Holder, making Holder the 1st Attorney General in U.S. History to be Censured (for crimes).

o During the early days in the Travon Martin-George Zimmerman case, the New Black Panthers, in one state, again broke the law by offering a BOUNTY on George Zimmerman, who was in another state. Since the incident involved several states it made it a Federal Crime. When Holder was called upon to press charges and prosecute he refused, again protecting the violent, radical group that had endorsed his boss, Barak Obama.

o During the Congressional investigation regarding the ILLEGAL wire-tapping of media Editors, reporters, and reporters PARENTS, Atty General Holder once again perpetrated a Felony Count of Perjury under oath before Congress by declaring he never knew of the operation…only to have to admit later that HE was the one who signed the paperwork authorizing the DOJ to do it.

President Barak Obama is complicti in these crimes due to the fact that he knew – watched – all of this & rather than hold Holder Accountable for his CRIMES he protected him.

And we learned in the IRS Scandal Hearings that not only was the DOJ used to target Americans, not only was the IRS used to target Americans, but the ATF, FBI, and even DHS were also abusively used by a ubre-partisan, law/Constitution-violating, American citizen/’enemy’-targeting administration.

easyt65 on July 12, 2013 at 12:37 PM

Why I know how to “fix” this:

- Toss out the current “bipartisan” FEC in favor of a “nonpartisan government ‘accountability’” board.
- Have the executive choose 6 replacements (serving staggered 6-year terms) from a list of retired appellate-level judges put together by 4 current appeals court judges chosen “by lot” by the longest-serving supreme court justice (a Lawgiver-In-Black in every way as it is Stevens on the federal level) in such a way as to guarantee at least 2 of them and quite possibly 3 of those putting together the list are also Lawgivers-In-Black in every way.
- The 6 reliably-liberal appointees keep the most-liberal members of the FEC around, and they proceed to run amuck for, at a minimum, 3 1/2 years after a party change at the executive mansion.

If that sounds familiar to anybody here, I just described what happened after former Wisconsin governor Jim “Craps” Doyle (WEAC/HoChunk-For Sale) corrupted the former State Elections Board during the 2006 gubernatorial campaign with the help of the Losertari…er…Libertari…(I was right the first time) member.

Steve Eggleston on July 12, 2013 at 12:40 PM

Snowden’s a TRAITOR!!!!!!

WryTrvllr on July 12, 2013 at 12:42 PM

And we learned in the IRS Scandal Hearings that not only was the DOJ used to target Americans, not only was the IRS used to target Americans, but the ATF, FBI, and even DHS were also abusively used by a ubre-partisan, law/Constitution-violating, American citizen/’enemy’-targeting administration.

But of course. What use are these agencies to Barry if he can’t use them to fulfill his agenda and abuse, attack and destroy his enemies. Why, if they must follow strict Constitutional guidelines, they have no value to Barry, or for that matter the corruptocrats running them, and might just as well be abolished.

hawkeye54 on July 12, 2013 at 12:46 PM

Yup. This is where Lois Lerner made her bones for the Democrat Party.

pat on July 12, 2013 at 12:53 PM

This is the Chicago way after all. My big worry is that it will continue long after Obama and Company are gone and Civil Servants will think it is still OK to targert Conservative groups or organizations for a very lonig time.

Johnnyreb on July 12, 2013 at 12:56 PM

F*ck Everybodies Constitution!

KOOLAID2 on July 12, 2013 at 12:59 PM

F *ck…E veryones…C onstitution!

KOOLAID2 on July 12, 2013 at 1:06 PM

In Chicago, elections are the most important thing. If you don’t win the election, you don’t get to do what you want. As a consequence, you’re willing to do what it takes, no matter what that might be, to win an election.

bflat879 on July 12, 2013 at 1:09 PM

In Chicago, elections are the most important thing. If you don’t win the election, you don’t get to do what you want. As a consequence, you’re willing to do what it takes, no matter what that might be, to win an election.

bflat879 on July 12, 2013 at 1:09 PM

Even more important, you have to win the next election to keep yourself safe from prosecution.

slickwillie2001 on July 12, 2013 at 1:13 PM

Ms. Lerner’s staff demanded to know what Coalition members discussed at their prayer meetings and what churches they belonged to.

Miz Lerner is really curious about other people’s prayers!!!

Our Father, who art in heaven, please throw Lois Lerner out of the Government, and deliver us from evil!

Steve Z on July 12, 2013 at 1:15 PM

“Fundamental transformation, bitches. You thought I was joking?”

– Barack Obama

Sacramento on July 12, 2013 at 12:34 PM

…and what “transparency” really means.

Schadenfreude on July 12, 2013 at 1:18 PM

In order to solve the problems of abuse of power and eliminate the incentives for it, we have to reduce the power and reach of both agencies.

Not to make fun of your remark, but, we are talking about the federal government here. Reducing power and reach is not something any of them wants. And I do mean ANY of them.

scalleywag on July 12, 2013 at 1:28 PM

This is what happens when you put hippies in charge of everything. I mean, look at that guy – he needs a haircut.

Ward Cleaver on July 12, 2013 at 1:52 PM

Lois Lerner needs to be investigated. For years. Send her a “behavior changer” about every month.

MTF on July 12, 2013 at 2:01 PM

In order to solve the problems of abuse of power and eliminate the incentives for it, we have to reduce the power and reach of both agencies.

No, what we need is citizens to inquire of these “investigatiors” if the probe has been ‘sanctioned’ by the FEC. If not, then citizens need to tell the bureaucrats TO SHOVE IT! and refuse to cooperate with them.

GarandFan on July 12, 2013 at 2:06 PM

That is an important safety valve, not just for the potential targets of an investigation, but also for free political activity.

Whoah, whoah, whoah! What do you think this is, a free republic? Free political activity? We can’t trust the people with that sort of power! Think of the chaos that would ensue!

In order to solve the problems of abuse of power and eliminate the incentives for it, we have to reduce the power and reach of both agencies government.

FIFY.

GWB on July 12, 2013 at 2:07 PM

Shouldn’t all but maybe three or four federal agencies be abolished? That might make it easier to keep an eye on oversight and save a ton of money from potential scandals and the ensuing investigations.

hawkeye54 on July 12, 2013 at 12:09 PM

That’s just crazy talk! Where’d you ever get an idea like that?

GWB on July 12, 2013 at 2:08 PM

Why do all these stories give me the irresistable urge to purchase more ammo?

SailorMark on July 12, 2013 at 12:12 PM

You’ve found some to purchase? I can’ t seem to find any!

wolverinefan on July 12, 2013 at 12:18 PM

Try freedom munitions. They are a reloader, for sure, but they make very good quality product and they have storefronts available out there.

ellesar04 on July 12, 2013 at 2:26 PM

Shouldn’t all but maybe three or four federal agencies be abolished? That might make it easier to keep an eye on oversight and save a ton of money from potential scandals and the ensuing investigations.

hawkeye54 on July 12, 2013 at 12:09 PM

That’s just crazy talk! Where’d you ever get an idea like that?

GWB on July 12, 2013 at 2:08 PM

Experience in working for a government entity and just observing what goes on. Simple as that.

hawkeye54 on July 12, 2013 at 2:27 PM

At this point I want to ask which Federal Agencies AREN’T involved with the Obama regime?

neyney on July 12, 2013 at 3:07 PM

If the US reformed its campaign-finance regulatory regime to allow unlimited contributions directly to candidates and parties with immediate disclosure of the amounts and identities of all contributions, two outcomes would be produced. Most political money would go directly to candidates and parties, forcing them to be responsible for the messaging and providing a much higher degree of transparency. That would eliminate most of the IRS issues with tax-exempt classifications, and it would also simplify the FEC’s job to enforcement of disclosures. All of this would make compliance a lot easier for everyone, and encourage more political involvement.

We can’t have that.

There Goes the Neighborhood on July 12, 2013 at 8:16 PM

Obama is using every agency of the US government to wage war on his enemies.

A new joke circulating the office (and I’ve seen it on the web) goes like this; Why bother with Carbonite? The NSA has all your files backed up…

Black humor. ( Sorry is that a racist term now? )

dogsoldier on July 12, 2013 at 12:11 PM

Homophobe.

There Goes the Neighborhood on July 12, 2013 at 8:19 PM

We have to purge the government of all libs. Preferably by destroying all lib dominated government agencies.

Iblis on July 12, 2013 at 9:46 PM

Government creep by government creeps

Angineer on July 12, 2013 at 10:28 PM