Commissioner Weintraub and her Critics

February 23, 2017
posted by Bob Bauer

The FEC got back into the news when Commissioner Weintraub issued a statement, posted to the FEC website and distributed via Twitter, that President Trump should produce some evidence to support his claim of voter fraud. An organization that calls itself Cause of Action filed a complaint with the FEC Inspector General, demanding an inquiry into whether the Commissioner’s expression of her views involved an impermissible diversion of government resources to a private political pursuit. Commissioner Weintraub replied that she would “not be silenced.”

One can only hope that in this demoralized agency, the IG finds better things to do. Just weeks ago, the President of the United States used Twitter to visit hell on a department store chain that discontinued his daughter’s line of clothing. An FEC Commissioner’s use of a statement and a few hundred characters of twitter commentary to criticize the President’s voter fraud claims hardly seems the most compelling reason for concern about holding some line between the official and the personal.

Are Weintraub’s comments directly and squarely within the jurisdiction of the Commission, such that she can take some action in response to the President’s failure to produce the requested evidence? No, but then again she rightly says that as a 13 year Commissioner, she should be free to take notice of any claims that bear on the integrity of elections. And she has tried, probably unnecessarily, to bolster her case by pointing out that anyone paying for busloads to come into New Hampshire to vote illegally may have committed a campaign finance violation.

Any government funding supposedly directed toward this purpose is an accounting fiction. It would have to be somehow scraped out of the conversation she had with government paid staff about what she proposed to do, and any of the minutes required for the production of the statement, the posting and tweets. Budgets are not balanced on the savings achieved by stopping this level of activity. There is very little of a principle to be upheld here.

Cause of Action does not appear to have thought this ploy through very clearly. No one believes it cares in the least about the protection of government resources associated with the Weintraub statement and tweets. Its purpose is clearly to strike back at the Weintraub for the substance of her comments and have her think twice about repeating them while “under investigation.”  But it cannot escape attention that to make its point, the organization urges a remedy that requires throwing real government money away, on an “investigation.” Weintraub’s statement-and-tweets communication on voter fraud is a bargain compared to the paper and staff time that may be burned in an IG inquiry.

Funded by the Koch related organizations, Cause of Action doesn’t display much in the way of the Koch brothers’ libertarian spirit in making a pointless call on government resources with the aim of suppressing unwanted speech.

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