The FEC is broken – H.R. 1 will break it differently

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The FEC is bad. The House of Representatives isn't doing anything to make it better.

When it passed H.R. 1 by a vote of 234-193 on Monday, Congress attempted to address a laundry list of nationwide problems: rampant gerrymandering, voting rights, and the vulnerability of elections to foreign interference, among other concerns. But H.R. 1, billed as the "For the People Act," also takes a shot at reforming the Federal Election Commission (FEC). It fails.

The FEC isn't good at enforcing the nation's campaign finance laws, and, when it is does, it's often an entire election cycle after the given offense. As it is, candidates don't have much difficulty circumventing campaign finance laws, undermining the fairness of elections and opening the door to further corruption.

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The FEC was created by the Federal Election Campaign Act following the Watergate scandal, as Congress sought a better way to police federal campaign laws and prevent future presidents from interfering with investigations as Nixon had. The FEC has six commissioners, and no more than three can be of the same party. Four votes are required for most actions taken by the agency, and that hasn't been an issue for most of its history. But since 2008, the frequency of 3-3 tie votes has increased dramatically. It's why the FEC is slow to investigate cases and even slower to prosecute offenses. Supporters of H.R. 1 complain, with good reason, that the FEC has become toothless. But H.R. 1's reforms introduce new and potentially volatile problems.

FEC's rampant dysfunction won't be fixed by H.R. 1— the bill doesn't get at what actually went wrong. Since its inception, the FEC has been able to operate without excessive gridlock, and, for the most part, it still does. At the height of FEC turmoil in 2014, the FEC only had a tied vote 14 percent of the time (historically, it has been closer to one to four percent of the time) on substantive matters, although many of these tie votes occur on matters that are particularly contentious. The greater problem afflicting the FEC is touched upon by NBC Washington's findings that the Republican and Democratic commissioners of the FEC almost always vote as blocs. At various times, both Republican and Democratic commissioners have put party interests ahead of their agency's responsibilities.

At various times, both Republican and Democratic commissioners have put party interests ahead of their agency's responsibilities.

H.R. 1's Democratic supporters instead believe the FEC's six-commissioner structure makes it dysfunctional. H.R. 1 introduces a new system of five commissioners —two from each party and one independent, eliminating tie votes. But that independent commissioner's de facto role as a tiebreaker would grant them far too much power. Save for Senate approval, there's nothing preventing a president from appointing an "independent" like Bernie Sanders or Angus King.

The bill's proponents are aware of this problem, creating a Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel that will help inform the president's decisions. But this panel has problems of its own. The Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel's decisions are non-binding and not public, a result of its exemption from the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), which ensures the transparency of advisory committees. There are arguments against FACA's necessity, the panel's deliberate exemption from the law undermines the idea that its goal is to ensure non-partisanship. Instead, H.R. 1 will allow future presidents to tilt the scales of the FEC in their favor, a fate the post-Watergate creators of the FEC were so desperate to avoid they originally had members of Congress picking commissioners before the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. Apparently, the solution to excessive gridlock is one-party control.

H.R. 1 also seeks to grant unilateral powers to the Chair of the commission in the name of expediency, again giving leverage to the Chair's party, and allows the General Counsel to take actions independent of commission votes. While some of the FEC's problems, such as its notoriously slow pace and the delayed appointment of commissioners under Presidents Obama and Trump, might be solved with legislation, the consolidation of power in the hands of a few at the expense of the FEC's integrity is not a winning strategy.

The FEC is afflicted by the same problem that has afflicted governments for as long as they have existed – governments are made up of people, and people can be bad. The Founders, in their wisdom, sought to limit the harm bad actors could do once in power, and the FEC's current structure adheres to this principle. Currently, the consequences of bad actors in the FEC is dysfunction and frustration. But under H.R. 1's reforms, those consequences could be blatant corruption.

Michael Rieger is a contributor for Young Voices. Follow him on Twitter at @EagerRieger.

Would Glenn make a better bounty hunter or a Jedi? You'll have to find out in a new episode of the Beltway Banthas Podcast, where Glenn goes deep on Star Wars with host Stephen Kent. In this 45 minute discussion, Stephen and Glenn explore the political themes of the Star Wars franchise, Darth Vader's redemption from Return of the Jedi, Glenn's earliest memories of seeing the films and even debate elements of the latest Star Wars films.

If you enjoy the pop culture and nerdy discussions that Glenn, Pat and Stu get into on the radio show, you'll love this! After you're through, you can also check out Stu Burguiere's appearance on Beltway Banthas to talk Star Wars. You can find that here.


It's never too early to start your Christmas, Hanukah, or Kwanzaa shopping. Or even birthday gift shopping. Especially if that special someone in your life is a Democrat. Because at last count, pretty much all the Democrats are now running for president. And that means there has never been a wider selection of official candidate merchandise to choose from. Whether you're into environmentalism, feminism, classism, socialism, or just plain love, there is a smorgasbord of classy items that you and yours will treasure forever... or at least until the next presidential election.

We have browsed each of the candidates' online stores, so you don't have to (it only took us three months). We have curated only the finest items from each of the Democrats running for president of the United States of America. Without further ado, here is your handy progressive gift guide – or maybe your what-not-to-gift guide.

First, the bargain basement options. Hurry! Time is running out to grab your Beto bandana, or your Delaney pack of golf balls, because at this point Stu has as much of a chance as these guys of getting the nomination.

Tom Steyer, for example – is he still in the race?


https://shop.tomsteyer.com/collections/frontpage/products/tom-2020-pattern-tee


There's way too much Tom here. That shirt's got more Toms than a Caucasian dentists' convention.

For the slightly more moderate Democrat in your life, perhaps they'd like to join the "Yang Gang"…

https://shop.yang2020.com/collections/bumper-stickers/products/yanggang-decal


Andrew Yang is a lock for Math Club president…


https://shop.yang2020.com/collections/apparel/products/math-hat


But for actual president? Well, I wouldn't make plans for how you're going to spend your $1,000-per-month Yang allowance just yet.

If you happen to be shopping for your dog, may I suggest this lovely "Dogs for Delaney" dog collar…


https://store.johndelaney.com/products/dogs-for-delaney-collar


John Delaney's definitely going to secure the canine vote with this kind of outreach. As for any human votes, that's another question entirely.

How 'bout this tastefully understated "Natural Canvas" Michael Bennet tote to remind you he's also still here?...


https://store.michaelbennet.com/michael-bennet-for-america-natural-canvas-tote/


Then again, it's a tote. So, it'll end up on the floor of your closet and you won't have it with you until that one random moment when you're out somewhere and you really need a tote bag. Just like Democrats will really wish they had a moderate when we're in the middle of the socialist nightmare of their creation.

Captain Planet himself, Jay Inslee recently dropped out of the race, but don't let that stop you from picking up what may be the greatest single item sold by anyone in this race…


https://store.jayinslee.com/elvis-the-elves-the-mystery-of-the-melting-snow-by-jay-inslee/


A children's book called Elvis & the Elves: the Mystery of the Melting Snow. Written and illustrated by Governor Jay Inslee. Talk about a whodunnit – how could that snow possibly be melting? Spoiler alert: it's because of evil, white, patriarchal capitalism. And Donald Trump.

Then there's the candidate who thinks you're a moron that can't pronounce his last name: Steve Bullock...


https://shop.stevebullock.com/collections/apparel/products/emoji-t-shirt


Get it? Bull. Lock. Oh, so that's how you say the name that sounds exactly how it's spelled.

There's another candidate who also thinks you need help pronouncing his last name…


https://store.peteforamerica.com/collections/apparel/products/boot-edge-edge-t-shirt


And he is definitely right about that. So, thank you, Pete "Boot Edge Edge." That helps.

Just outside the bargain bin section, but just barely, are candidates like Julian Castro and his "El Presidente" t-shirt…


https://store.julianforthefuture.com/julian-castro-loteria-card-white-tee/


When your last name's Castro, do you really want to go with a weird drawing of yourself as if you're a classic Latin American dictator on a postage stamp?

If you prefer a little "dark psychic forces" battling in your candidates, you'll love Marianne Williamson's "Turn Love Into a Political Force" rally sign…


https://store.marianne2020.com/collections/signs/products/love-rally-sign


"Turn Love Into a Political Force" would be an even better title for a Marianne Williamson album of 80s cover songs. And if you think I'm joking, then you haven't heard Bernie Sanders' classic 1987 folk album, We Shall Overcome. That's not a joke. Well, it is a joke, but it's also a very real thing.

Now, just a quick pause to consider the peculiar baby-wear that way too many candidates are selling…

…including Elizabeth Warren's trans-pride flag onesie. Let me get this straight – we can't force any gender on a child, because that's just cruel. But we can force a political advertisement on a baby? How do we know that baby is actually a Biden or Warren fan? The child may not even be a Democrat or a Socialist at all. That baby might self-identify as a Libertarian, or Republican, or even worse – a moderate Democrat.

Now to the premium items from the premium candidates. Elizabeth Warren – the candidate with the most honesty in her advertising…


https://shop.elizabethwarren.com/collections/apparel/products/impolite-arrogant-women-make-history-unisex-t-shirt

-AND-

https://shop.elizabethwarren.com/collections/drinkware/products/strong-american-unions-mug


Warren's merchandise reflects the woman herself – cold and humorless (watch her "This isn't funny" clip from the last debate here at the 4:27 mark). I'm sure she's really fun once you get to know her. Then again, maybe not.

Speaking of serious women, Kamala Harris wants to be president very badly for you, the people, as you can tell from her "For the People" poster…


https://store.kamalaharris.org/poster-for-the-people/


At $29.99 though, she's sure not charging "people's" prices. Of course, she might be having to pay royalties to a certain someone for riffing on their poster. Just saying.

For the race's number one socialist, there's a whole lot of capitalism going on in Bernie Sanders' campaign. He sells so many delightful items that it's hard to choose. But we did anyway. The most random item is this hundred-dollar, black, "Art of a Political Revolution – Artists for Bernie Sanders Coaches Jacket"…


https://store.berniesanders.com/collections/apparel/products/artists-for-bernie-coaches-jacket


Coaches across the land will be clamoring for this one. You know, since coaches are such a strong Bernie-socialist demographic.

If that's a little over your budget you might consider a "Feel the Bern" fanny pack, to help store all those government freebies you'll get from Bernie…


https://store.berniesanders.com/collections/apparel/products/feel-the-bern-fanny-pack


This is the only context in which you'll ever want to hear "feel the burn" and "fanny" in the same sentence.

And finally, from front-runner Joe Biden, we have this fine "Women's Fitted Biden Polo." Which is just about the best polo description ever…


https://store.joebiden.com/collections/apparel/products/biden-polo-womens-fit


It promises the kind of snug approach that Biden loves to provide women. Even when they don't ask.

This was one of the first homesteads in the area in the 1880's and was just begging to be brought back to its original glory — with a touch of modern. When we first purchased the property, it was full of old stuff without any running water, central heat or AC, so needless to say, we had a huge project ahead of us. It took some vision and a whole lot of trust, but the mess we started with seven years ago is now a place we hope the original owners would be proud of.

To restore something like this is really does take a village. It doesn't take much money to make it cozy inside, if like me you are willing to take time and gather things here and there from thrift shops and little antique shops in the middle of nowhere.

But finding the right craftsman is a different story.

Matt Jensen and his assistant Rob did this entire job from sketches I made. Because he built this in his off hours it took just over a year, but so worth the wait. It wasn't easy as it was 18"out of square. He had to build around that as the entire thing we felt would collapse. Matt just reinforced the structure and we love its imperfections.

Here are a few pictures of the process and the transformation from where we started to where we are now:

​How it was

It doesn't look like much yet, but just you wait and see!

By request a photo tour of the restored cabin. I start doing the interior design in earnest tomorrow after the show, but all of the construction guys are now done. So I mopped the floors, washed the sheets, some friends helped by washing the windows. And now the unofficial / official tour.

The Property

The views are absolutely stunning and completely peaceful.