FEC EARNING CONGRESSIONAL ATTENTION — FOR THE WRONG REASONS

Mar 14, 2017 by

First House oversight hearing in years a possibility, Senate also mulling review

By Dave LevinthalPUBLICINTEGRITY.ORG

Rep. Barry Loudermilk (left), a Georgia Republican seen here in January with House Speaker Paul Ryan (right), is among lawmakers who say its time Congress provide more oversight of the Federal Election Commission, which has for years been beset with internal troubles.

Zach Gibson/AP

The Federal Election Commission — an agency of clashing commissioners, seething staffers and key vacancies — may soon face congressmen who wonder: Why’s the agency a basket case?

Such a trip under Congress’ microscope could come in the form of a Committee on House Administration oversight hearing, something the FEC hasn’t endured since 2011, when super PACs were still novel and the now-seminal Citizens United v. FEC decision wasn’t yet two years old. A planned oversight hearing in 2014 never materialized.

“It’s time,” Committee on House Administration member Barry Loudermilk, a Republican congressman from Georgia, told the Center for Public Integrity. “We should take the opportunity and have a re-evaluation.”

An oversight hearing is “both urgent and necessary” and should be conducted “sooner rather than later,” said Jamie Fleet, a spokesman for Rep. Robert Brady, the committee’s ranking Democrat.

Committee on House Administration Chairman Gregg Harper, R-Mississippi, is open to bringing FEC leaders up to Capitol Hill, with spokeswoman Erin McCracken saying the committee will “continue to use appropriate mechanisms of oversight, which could include possible hearings.”

The Senate Committee on Rules and Administration also appears to have increased appetite for reviewing FEC affairs. Although this committee has this decade conducted FEC commissioner confirmation hearings and hearings about campaign money, it has not specifically conducted an FEC oversight hearing since 2004, according to committee records.

“There are many campaign finance issues that need to be discussed and investigated by the Senate … hearings in the Rules Committee would help increase transparency and shed light on our campaign finance system, which is badly in need of reform,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, the committee’s ranking Democrat.

Torrie Matous, a spokeswoman Senate Committee on Rules and Administration Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, said Shelby is “committed to proper oversight of the FEC and has staff dedicated to those efforts.”

Plenty to talk about

If an oversight hearing occurs in one or both chambers, expect tension.

Lots.

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