Republican commissioners on the Federal Election Commission are reluctant to approve new procedures to speed up resolution of pending campaign finance enforcement matters because the backlog of pending complaints at the FEC involves many more Republicans and conservative groups than Democrats and liberal groups, according to Republican FEC Commissioner Lee Goodman.Of 73 cases that have been analyzed by agency staff but not yet been acted on by the FEC commissioners, about three-quarters of the matters with a partisan respondent involve Republicans or conservatives, Goodman said May 21 at an FEC .While FEC Republicans are hesitant to go along with new procedures on enforcement matters, Goodman suggested they might consider more informal agreements to move matters along more speedily.
This is a very interesting development, because even though the FEC has been splitting in hard cases along party lines, the argument has been made, with some force, that the split is primarily ideological, not partisan, with Republican commissioners supporting less regulation and Democratic commissioners supporting more. (Though as I’ve noted before, the ideological position of the parties could help each of their parties in the long run.) But now this comment by Commissioner Goodman threatens to turn this into a more conventional partisan battle.
Here are three reasons why there might be more complaints against Republican-allied groups:
1. Republican groups are more opposed to campaign restrictions than Democratic groups, and are more apt to do things of questionable legality under the law out of the belief they have a constitutional right to do so or because they think they can get away with it thanks to a deadlocked FEC.
2. Democratic groups are more reluctant to push the envelope on campaign restrictions, and hence draw complaints, because they are ideologically opposed to loose campaign finance rules. (Though Hillary Clinton’s recent actions with Correct the Record undermine that to some extent.)
3. Democrats are more willing to use the FEC as a political weapon.
I suppose one’s views on whether it is a problem that more Republican-allied groups are the subject of complaints at the FEC depends upon whether you believe the problem is 1, 2, or 3.