The Federal Election Commission Loses Its Quorum

Last week, Nextgov reported that Vice Chairman of the Federal Election Commission (FEC), Matthew S. Petersen, announced his resignation.  This means that the FEC, normally a six member board, will only have three members.  Without a quorum of four members, the FEC can no longer hold meetings, start audits, create rules, or impose fines.  As the 2020 election cycle swings into full gear, the commission essentially can’t do its job.

Even the three commissioners who remain have terms that have expired, but they will remain in their roles until new members are appointed to replace them.  In nominating new members to the commission, it must be ensured that no more than three commissioners are from the same party, so they are often nominated in pairs, with one from each party.

Until these new members are appointed, though, there is still some work that the FEC can do.  They can continue to process complaints, work on ongoing audits, and litigate cases.  This is especially important given that there is still work to be done concerning the 2016 election cycle.  They’re also able to appoint some staff members and approve information to the general public.  They are able to do this because the last time a quorum couldn’t be achieved, in 2008, certain rules were amended to keep the lights on.

While the commission did regain a quorum, recent years have been plagued by absences.  There hasn’t been a full set of commissioners since the beginning of 2017 which included 28 months without an inspector general.  Currently, there is no deputy inspector general and the general counsel is in an interim role.

The FEC’s Chair Ellen Weintraub issued a statement on Twitter urging President Trump to nominate new members quickly.  Thus far, no quick actions have been taken as Weintraub points out that a seat vacated in April of 2017 has yet to see a nominee.

Weintraub’s full statement

Weintraub’s full statement

Regardless of the quorum issue, Weintraub has pledged that the FEC will be watching the 2020 campaigns.  Contributions and spending must still be reported, and as mentioned earlier, the general public will still get access to things like campaign finance information.  The FEC will also still accept new complaints and run potential violations through counsel, but will be unable to vote on the matters until a quorum is restored.

So the work of the FEC will continue, but knowing that they’re still working through issues related to the 2016 election, it seems that problems with the 2020 election will be even more backlogged.  Presidents often defer to Senate party leadership for nominations of members of the opposing party, so Trump will need Minority Leader Schumer to get to work as well, although a former FEC Chairman notes it doesn’t seem to be a priority for Trump or Schumer.


About the Author: Chris Mack

Chris is a Marketing Manager at Extract with experience in product development, data analysis, and both traditional and digital marketing.  Chris received his bachelor’s degree in English from Bucknell University and has an MBA from the University of Notre Dame.  A passionate marketer, Chris strives to make complex ideas more accessible to those around him in a compelling way.