“At the Federal Election Commission, No Watchdog for the Watchdog”

Dave Levinthal:

When Beverly Davis began disqualifying numerous applicants for the Federal Election Commission’s vacant inspector general job — including a long-time staff attorney for Commissioner Matthew Petersen — agency superiors protested. 

Accusations and allegations flew. A turf war ensued. 

Davis said she was “attacked, retaliated against and bullied” into reassessing the qualifications of applicants she deemed subpar. After being overruled, Davis closed the job opening for the position — the agency’s internal watchdog — and resigned from her job as a senior human resources specialist, forcing the FEC to restart its search. The position has now been open for more than two years.

The May 2018 fracas, described in interviews and a series of internal emails obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, is but one of several stumbles that have helped render the FEC’s inspector general office effectively nonfunctional since November, when the lone deputy inspector general quit.

This matters because the inspector general office investigates waste, fraud and abuse at the FEC, including accusations against commissioners. The bipartisan FEC is itself responsible for enforcing and regulating national campaign finance laws but has long been hamstrung by ideological divisions, low staff morale and other long-standing vacancies, including two of six FEC commissioner slots.

So the lack of an inspector general means no one is watching the election watchdog — at a time when few feel the FEC is functioning effectively, even as its missions are evermore important. The FEC’s struggles are set against the backdrop of an accelerating chase for presidential campaign cash and prominent political money scandals — alleged porn actress hush-money payments and foreign infiltration among them. 

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