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FEC set to lose its quorum again

White House says Allen Dickerson will be nominated to replace outgoing Caroline Hunter

James “Trey” Trainor III gave the FEC sufficient commissioners for a quorum last month.
James “Trey” Trainor III gave the FEC sufficient commissioners for a quorum last month. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

That didn’t last long.

The Federal Election Commission, which just recently regained enough members to conduct such routine official business as meetings, is losing yet another commissioner, sidelining the agency tasked with enforcing election laws in a pivotal presidential election year. 

GOP commissioner Caroline Hunter is departing on July 3, according to a resignation letter first reported by Politico.  That will leave the agency with three members; a quorum requires four commissioners.

Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, the top Republican on the House Administration panel, which has jurisdiction over federal election matters, said he was concerned the agency would not have a quorum again before the November elections. 

“It just goes to the point we’ve been making for a while that we certainly hope that the administration could get some nominations to get a quorum,” Davis said. “I want to thank Commissioner Hunter for her service. She did a great job; sad to see her go. But at the same time, I’d like to press for more urgency in getting a full commission so that they can operate.”

Outside groups that track money in political matters also bemoaned the situation.

“A huge majority of voters are concerned about the enforcement of our campaign finance laws, and Hunter’s resignation leaves their democratic elections with significantly less government oversight,” Trevor Potter, president of the Campaign Legal Center and a former Republican chairman of the FEC, said in a statement. “A strong and functional FEC is vital to protecting our democracy, fighting corruption, and holding politicians accountable for the campaign money they receive.”

The agency, which even when it has its requisite three GOP appointees and three Democratic appointees is often gridlocked along party lines, secured its most recent member, Texas lawyer James “Trey” Trainor III, in May.

“It is deeply disheartening and concerning that the FEC will again be missing in action as the country enters the home stretch of the 2020 election,” said Meredith McGehee, executive director of the campaign finance overhaul group Issue One. “In order to swiftly restore a quorum, President Donald Trump should nominate, and the Senate should confirm, individuals who will prioritize enforcing both the letter and the spirit of law — and only individuals who put their constitutional responsibilities to uphold our nation’s anti-corruption laws first.”

In her letter of resignation, Hunter wrote that the agency “would benefit greatly from new faces and fresh perspectives,” and she referenced disagreements among commissioners including Ellen Weintraub, who has been on the commission since 2002.

Commissioners serve six-year terms but may remain until a successor is confirmed by the Senate. Hunter was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2008 and has previously served as chairwoman of the commission.

FEC commissioners are appointed for six-year terms. Weintraub has been on the commission since 2002.
During Trainor’s Senate confirmation hearing earlier this year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell noted that the three remaining commissioners, including Hunter, are all operating on expired terms, and he said he’d like to “aim for a new clean slate of commissioners on both sides” of the aisle.

“We continue to work towards (a full slate of) six new commissioners and look forward to getting a full Commission,” McConnell spokesman David Popp said in an email to CQ Roll Call.

The White House said Friday that it was nominating Allen Dickerson, who is legal director of the conservative Institute for Free Speech.

Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.

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