February 14, 2019

Kilmer, Fitzpatrick Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Fix America’s Election Watchdog

WASHINGTON, D.C.Today, U.S. Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) 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.

Representatives Scott Peters (D-CA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), and Julia Brownley (D-CA) are also original co-sponsors of the bill.

The current enforcement process at the FEC is such that the Commission is increasingly deadlocked on decisions. In 2006, the FEC deadlocked on fewer than 3 percent of all major enforcement cases they reviewed. That number jumped to 30 percent by 2016.

“The Federal Elections Commission was set up 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 ref often hasn’t even been on the field with the Commission often seeming more dysfunctional than even Congress. It’s time to get the referee back on the field. That’s what this bill is about. Meaningful, substantial reforms at the Commission need to happen so it can get back to weeding out campaign finance abuse and holding those who skirt the rules accountable.”

“The foundation of our democracy is the American people’s confidence in our electoral system,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “Ending the partisan gridlock at the Federal Elections Commission will increase transparency and give the American people confidence that campaigns are held accountable and everyone is following the same rules.”

One of the core tenets of the bill would be the reduction of the number of commissioners from six to five, eliminating stalemate decisions. The bill would mandate that one member could not be affiliated with either party, ultimately increasing the independence of the Commission.

The Restoring Integrity to America’s Election Act would also:

  • Establish an advisory Blue-Ribbon Commission to develop recommendations on nominees to fill vacancies on the Commission as they arise.
  • Prohibit recent politicians from serving as commissioners to preserve the independence of the commission.
  • Strengthen the role of the General Counsel so that enforcement matters move forward on such authority, unless the Commission affirmatively votes to override the General Counsel.
  • Revise the qualifications for commissions to focus on independence, public credibility, and professional experience in election law.
  • Designate to reviewing courts the power to decide whether agency action is contrary to law based on the merits of the complaints before them.