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Affirmative Political Action

Yesterday I posted about how Americans almost unanimously say that our system for funding elections is broken and needs to be dramatically changed. Here’s a good example of why they feel that way, and an organization that is doing something about it.

The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) has announced that they are suing the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the government entity responsible for enforcing election laws. Why?

First, because Republican FEC Commissioner Lee Goodman publicly admitted that he is deliberately holding up election complaints against Republican and conservative groups. What’s amazing is he doesn’t see anything wrong with what he is doing. His logic? He said that he is merely exercising his discretion as a commissioner to solve a problem. The problem, he argued, is that the number of complaints filed against Republican and conservative groups outweighs the number of complaints filed against Democratic and liberal groups, so investigating all complaints equally would unfairly impact Republicans.

Maybe we should apply that excellent argument in other important areas. Like, blacks are proportionately more likely to be arrested for violating drug laws, so we should stop prosecuting blacks. And immigration laws unfairly target Mexicans and other Hispanics, so we should stop prosecuting them. Am I right? Unfortunately, I don’t think Republicans would go for this, because they claim to be against affirmative action. Or are they against it only when it benefits someone else?

Secondly, Goodman’s admission came while the FEC was discussing whether to implement a policy requiring action on complaints within six months (in most cases). The CLC notes that of the 19 complaints they have filed with the FEC since 2011, only four of them have been resolved. Six of them have been pending (in limbo) over four years. That means it is easily possible for a politician to have their campaign law violation ignored for longer than they serve in office.

A rule requiring faster action on election complaints seems sorely needed, but here’s the truly crazy part. It isn’t. The Federal Election Campaign Act already requires the FEC to act on complaints within 120 days of the complaint being filed (that’s 4 months, not 6). So the commission that is supposed to enforce the law is actually violating it.

You would think that since the Citizens United decision it would be even more important to prosecute violations of what few election laws we have left. And the CLC is trying to do that. But Commissioner Goodman even took a swipe at organizations like the CLC in his comments, implying partisan bias. However, the CLC is non-partisan, and files complaints against both Democrats and Republicans. In fact, the founder and (still) president of the CLC is Trevor Potter, a Republican former chairman of the FEC who served as a lawyer for three Republican presidential candidates.



  1. Anonymous wrote:

    Follow the money. Remember the IRS getting into trouble because they thought those political groups weren’t non profits 501Cs? And, of course, they are correct.

    Find out how wealthy Goodman is and why.

    Sunday, June 7, 2015 at 4:39 am | Permalink
  2. John wrote:

    Anonymous beat us all to it with the (very true) comment about IRS enforcement.

    It’s too bad the job of these government agencies is not simply to prosecute corruption where corruption exists. If one group has more individual members in violation, then it would logically follow that more members of that group will be prosecuted.

    If it’s rally about general groups, and it should NOT be about general groups but about individual offenders/organizations, then prosecuting a lower percentage of offenders in order to keep things “balanced” unfairly favors the highest-offending individuals.

    Monday, June 8, 2015 at 1:31 pm | Permalink