Lachlan Markay for the Daily Beast:
The good news is that the nation’s top campaign finance watchdog may soon be functional again. The bad news is that its current chairman has gone off the rails.
Trey Trainor may not be a household name. But as head of the Federal Election Commission, he has oversight of the campaign finance system that underpins federal elections. And in recent days, he’s been floating baseless election fraud conspiracy theories sourced entirely to a Trump attorney who believes the Fed is out to tank the American economy in order to enrich George Soros.
“I do believe that there is voter fraud taking place” in key states in the 2020 presidential election, Trainor told the conservative outlet Newsmax last week. The allegations were quickly seized upon by the president’s allies, including his son Donald Trump Jr., in their efforts to overturn the results of an election that experts both in and out of the federal government have said was remarkably secure and reliable.
Such proclamations carry a bit of extra weight when coming from the chair of the FEC. But Trainor’s sole source for it appears to be the word of Sidney Powell, a right-wing attorney who’s representing the Trump campaign in its efforts to block the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory.
Campaign finance experts recoiled at Trainor’s apparent embrace of the dubious allegations. “My biggest concern with Commissioner Trainor is his partisanship, and to the extent that overlaps with the conspiracy theorizing about election fraud, that’s a concern,” said Paul Seamus Ryan, the vice president of litigation with the group Common Cause, in an interview on Tuesday.
But the comments were just the latest in a recent shift at the FEC, spearheaded by both Republican and Democratic commissioners, to expand its role to some degree beyond the commission’s traditional campaign finance enforcement mandate. Fueled by concerns over foreign election interference in 2016 and spurious voter fraud charges this year, the nation’s chief political money enforcer appears to be eyeing an expanded policy purview, even as the commission he served on has been prevented by internal dysfunction and a critical staff shortage from carrying out its most basic functions.