February 29, 2024

Kilmer Introduces Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Fix America’s Election Watchdog

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representatives Derek Kilmer (WA-06) and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) and U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (MD) introduced the bipartisan Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act to reform the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) and enable it to more effectively carry out its mission to oversee and enforce campaign finance laws.

Due to the FEC’s even partisan split among its six commissioners, deadlock on key decisions has worsened, with unresolved cases rising from 4.2% in 2006 to nearly 40% in 2016, mostly affecting trivial matters. The Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act aims to resolve these deadlocks and enhance enforcement by reforming the FEC's leadership and streamlining its processes.

“Congress initially set up the Federal Election Commission after Watergate to be the referee, tasked with blowing the whistle on politicians and groups that cheat and undermine the interests of ‘We the People’,” said Rep. Kilmer. “Unfortunately, in recent years, the FEC has become dysfunctional, jeopardizing enforcement of the rules. This bill is about getting the referee back on the field. Meaningful, substantial reforms at the Commission need to happen to get back to weeding out campaign finance abuse and holding those who break the rules accountable.”

“In order for our democracy to function, voters must be able to have confidence in our electoral institutions,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “Our bipartisan legislation will require necessary reforms to the way the Federal Election Commission operates and ensure that it does not remain yet another example of partisan gridlock. I am proud to lead this transparency initiative alongside my bipartisan colleagues and to continue to lead the charge in Congress to restore Americans’ faith in their elections.”

“Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of our democracy, but since the Supreme Court’s wrong and reckless 2010 Citizens United decision, our nation’s campaign finance laws have given big corporations and deep-pocketed special interests enormous power in politics with almost zero transparency,” said Sen. Van Hollen. “By strengthening the FEC’s ability to enforce our campaign finance laws, this legislation will help return more political power to the American people – where it belongs.”

The Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act proposes reducing FEC commissioners from six to five, including two from each major party and one independent, to prevent deadlock and align with the structure of most independent agencies. The Act also introduces a Blue-Ribbon Advisory Panel, led by the president, to suggest nominees for the Commission.

The Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act is endorsed by Common Cause, Democracy 21, End Citizens United // Let America Vote Action Fund, and Public Citizen.

“Americans deserve to know that their government works for them, not special interests,” said Aaron Scherb, Senior Director of Legislative Affairs, Common Cause. “However, when the Federal Election Commission continues to deadlock on key votes and fails to fully uphold campaign finance laws, more secret and special interest money is allowed into our political system. Modernizing the FEC is an important step to ensure that the voices of all Americans can be heard, and we appreciate Congressman Kilmer’s and Senator Van Hollen’s leadership for introducing the Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act.”

“Democracy 21 strongly supports the Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act being introduced in the House by Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA),” said Fred Wertheimer, President, Democracy 21. “Our organization greatly appreciates Representative Kilmer’s continuing national leadership on repairing the ineffectual Federal Election Commission (FEC). The creation of the Federal Election Commission was one of the key reforms created in the wake of the Watergate scandal.  Today, the FEC has become a dysfunctional agency paralyzed by stalemate and inaction. It is urgently in need of reform. The Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act is vital legislation that will strengthen the ability of the FEC to oversee and enforce our nation’s campaign finance laws. Democracy 21 thanks Representative Kilmer for his ongoing leadership in this critical work to repair our broken campaign finance system. We also urge Congress to act to pass the Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act, which is essential to making the nation’s campaign finance laws work properly.”

Thanks to coordinated efforts by Republicans and their dark money backers, the Federal Election Commission has been mired in dysfunction and gridlock, leading to unfettered corruption and a toothless agency,” said Tiffany Muller, President, End Citizens United // Let America Vote Action Fund. “The Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act will ensure the FEC is fully functioning to hold bad actors accountable and enforce anti-corruption laws. We’re thankful for Representative Kilmer’s continued leadership on rooting out corruption in our political system.”

“The agency tasked with enforcing the nation’s campaign finance laws – the Federal Election Commission – has fallen into disarray and dysfunction ever since polarized party politics have taken root,” said Craig Holman, Ph.D., Public Citizen. “Divided evenly along party lines, the FEC usually deadlocks on major issues, leaving the campaign finance laws largely unenforced. Rep. Fitzpatrick’s ‘Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act’ would break the partisan gridlock by appointing a nonpartisan independent as one member of the Commission, casting the deciding vote whenever the partisan members deadlock. It is imperative to bring the FEC out of polarizing party politics because our campaign finance law is only as good as its fair and nonpartisan enforcement.”

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