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Government & Politics

Campaign Finance Violations May Go Unpunished Because of Federal Elections Commission Vacancies

The FEC has three empty seats that will need filled before they can go forward with investigations of possible campaign finance violations.

The Federal Elections Commission has only three of its six seats filled, so with the 2020 presidential election ahead, it can’t go forward with full investigations or levy fines for campaign finance violations.

But an Ohio professor who was the chair of the Federal Elections Commission says that’s not what he’s concerned about.

Though there’s no quorum for meetings and other action now, Capital University Law Professor Bradley Smith says those who run afoul of campaign finance laws now and into 2020 will eventually be investigated when the open seats on the FEC are filled.

“The people who really benefit are the folks who are under investigation for violations from maybe 2016 campaign for whom the statute of limitations is about to run. And now the FEC might suddenly say, ‘oh well - we no longer have a quorum to take a final vote to assess a penalty against you.’”

Smith says the terms of the three commissioners still on the FEC have all expired, but they can remain on the panel. The last time the FEC was short of a quorum was in 2008.