Advocates of stricter campaign finance law enforcement fear a Senate Republican push to restore a quorum on the Federal Election Commission could thwart their ability to pursue alleged violations in court.
The Senate Rules and Administration Committee is expected to vote Thursday to advance Texas election lawyer James “Trey” Trainor to fill a GOP vacancy on the panel.
With his confirmation, an equally divided FEC could resume its pattern of deadlocking on enforcement cases, leading to dismissal of alleged violations of disclosure requirements and other campaign finance laws, says a campaign finance watchdog.
FEC staff lawyers would also be able to defend such dismissals in court and prevent alleged violators from being sued, said Adav Noti, a former commission staff attorney, who’s now chief of staff at the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center. Democrats and campaign finance groups said Trainor would likely vote to block enforcement action in key cases.
In the absence of a quorum, which the FEC has had for months, lawsuits “can mean faster enforcement and more meaningful penalties, as well as establishing binding precedent for future cases,” Noti said in an email.