FEC Hamstrung As Third Commissioner Announces Resignation

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Andrew Kerr Investigative Reporter
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The vice chairman of the Federal Election Commission announced his resignation Monday, rendering the nation’s electoral watchdog incapable of taking action on enforcement matters in the lead-up to the 2020 elections.

The FEC will have three vacancies on its six-member board after Republican Matthew Petersen leaves the FEC at the end of August, rendering the commission unable to meet its four-member quorum.

“When Matt Petersen leaves the Commission, we will lose a true gentleman-scholar and tireless defender of Americans’ First Amendment rights,” Republican commissioner Caroline Hunter said in a statement. “The Commission will also lose its quorum.”

“Without a quorum, certain Commission activities will not take place,” she continued. “For example, the commission will not be able to hold meetings, initiate audits, vote on enforcement matters, issue advisory opinions, or engage in rulemakings.”

Petersen will be the third commissioner to leave the FEC since President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Democrat Ann Ravel left the commission in March 2017, and Republican Lee Goodman departed in February 2018.

Trump nominated Texas lawyer James Trainor III to the FEC in September 2017, but Trainor’s nomination is still awaiting Senate confirmation.

FEC Chair Ellen Weintraub urged Trump to nominate new commissioners to fill the vacancies and the Senate to confirm them with haste in a statement Monday.

Weintraub said the FEC won’t be completely deadlocked due to Petersen’s resignation. (RELATED: FEC Chair Says Trump ‘Undermines Democracy’ With Voter Fraud Claims)

“The FEC will still be able to shine a strong spotlight on the finances of the 2020 campaign,” Weintraub, a Democrat, said. “Political committees still must report their contributions and spending.”

FEC will still be able to take in new complaints that allege infractions of campaign finance law, Weintraub said. The commission’s general counsel will still be able to analyze and make recommendations on how the commission should handle any new complaints it receives, she said.

“Only the commission’s vote on that recommendation will be delayed,” Weintraub explained.

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