Public Citizen recently picked up where the Federal Election Commission refused to venture and refiled a petition (PDF) for rulemaking on disclosure and coordination rules that was originally offered by FEC Chair Ann Ravel and Commissioner Ellen Weintraub.
A sorely divided agency – complete with name-calling – argued for two hours today in its monthly public hearing over a petition for rulemaking filed by two of its own commissioners. This is the first time FEC commissioners have filed a petition for rulemaking with their own commission, although other governmental officials, such as U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), have done so. But the act created an uproar.
“Since 2008, the elections agency has been largely immobilized by a 3-to-3 party line deadlock, essentially unable to enforce the law or even update its rules and regulations,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “In an act of desperation, Chair Ravel and Commissioner Weintraub filed a petition for rulemaking that would invite public participation in an effort to break the logjam.”
The Republican bloc on the commission would have none of it. The commission was heading toward another deadlock vote on whether to post the petition for rulemaking – a procedure that has always been considered a formality. The commission debated whether a commissioner has the authority to file a petition for rulemaking; whether the commission even need recognize such a petition; and what a deadlocked indecision would actually mean when such petitions have always been routinely posted.
“The debate became rancorous and shows how the campaign finance law has been tortured in recent years,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “The dramatic activity today underscores the real need for productive action by our FEC, and the pushback on the Ravel-Weintraub complaint leaves us wondering how this government agency can get there.”
In the end, the commission decided to delay consideration of the petition. With that indecision, Public Citizen picked up the petition, dusted it off and refiled it.