Archive for the 'Election Administration' Category

See the full report here And a press release on the report here

Don McGahn has made his mark on the Federal Election Commission, and the recent Boston Globe account tells the story in familiar terms: he was dedicated to the evisceration of the campaign finance laws, he could count on the support of his Republican colleagues, and he did not go about this business with a soft touch. Commissioners now decline to reach across the aisle except to swat at one other, leaving two senior members to argue over the question of which of the them refused to answer the other's phone calls. The agency’s operations are defined by dysfunction, its atmosphere by disharmony. As the Globe dates these developments, the year 2008, when McGahn came to the FEC, is the turning point.

To accept that this is an unattractive portrait of the FEC—that this is not a model of constructive regulatory exertion even on difficult issues—is not to say that the picture is complete. The FEC has found the going rough for years, as the Globe noted: "stalled from the start," in the words of an early Common Cause critique. If what was once a stall has developed into flaming breakdown, the explanation must rest on more than the obduracy since 2008 of Don McGahn and his colleagues. The Globe makes a light pass on other factors but they remain in the background, diminished and incomplete.

Edmund Corsi from Ohio has strong views about politics and political candidates, and he makes them known through a website, and in other ways, in the name of the Geauga Constitutional Council. Corsi was called on to answer to the Ohio Elections Commission for failing to register a “political committee” under Ohio state law. Corsi lost there, and then in two appeals, and the Center for Competitive Politics has petitioned for writ of certiorari, challenging the basis upon which Ohio has applied its definition of a “political committee.” Ohio Rev. Code. Ann. § 3517.01(B)(8).
In concluding that the IRS used “inappropriate criteria” in screening tax exempt applications, an Inspector General’s review cites as one source of this mismanagement “confusion” among employees about the law. The report recommends further internal guidance on the nature of an organization’s “primary” activity, and training or workshops designed to educate staff about “ political campaign intervention versus general advocacy.”
Richard Briffault is unfailingly astute in his observations about the campaign finance laws and lucid in expressing them. In the days not too long ago when worries gathered around “527”s, he wrote an insightful essay on that subject. Now, with Super PACs on the minds of campaign finance analysts, he has turned attention to them. His subject is the Super PAC dedicated to the election of a single candidate and run, often with the candidate’s public approval, by former staff and associates. He proposes that the “coordination” standard be re-defined to capture these cases of “disguised contributions” and bring them within limits. These are not independent committees, he argues, but candidate committees in all but the name.