“Trump Inaugural Probe Spurs Warning on Election Commission Bias”

Bloomberg Government:

A top Democratic lawmaker is calling for election regulators to guard against the appearance of bias at the agency after a watchdog found problems with the Federal Election Commission’s review of Donald Trump’s inaugural committee.

The inspector general’s findings “suggest both the FEC and Congress should act to ensure personal and political bias plays no role in the official business of the Commission,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), the chair of the House Administration Committee that oversees the commission, said in an emailed statement.

Lofgren responded to an investigation led by FEC Inspector General Christopher Skinner that examined allegations that the commission’s review of Trump’s inaugural committee was tainted by a top official’s ties to a top Trump campaign aide, derailing pursuit of possible campaign finance violations.

While he found no actual bias in the commission’s review of the Trump committee, Skinner’s report said the handling of the committee showed a need for more FEC vigilance.

“It is important to address the ethical principle that federal employees should avoid even the appearance of impropriety,” the investigative summary said, recommending that the commission review and update its ethics policies. The agency issued a press release Monday on the inspector general’s findings, which were sent to the commissioners on July 29.

Skinner’s probe focused mainly on Debbie Chacona, a veteran top staffer overseeing the review of all FEC disclosure reports. Chacona had close ties to Donald McGahn a former FEC commissioner and top Trump aide, according to an October 2020 ProPublica report that prompted the IG’s probe.

One of Chacona’s Facebook posts shows her and her family gathered around a “Make America Great Again” sign at Trump’s January 2017 inauguration, according to ProPublica. The publication obtained personal and professional emails between McGahn and Chacona through the Freedom of Information Act.

In the messages, the two exchanged negative remarks about Democratic commissioner Ellen Weintraub and Fred Wertheimer, a longtime campaign finance reform advocate who heads Democracy 21.

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