America’s Election Watchdogs Are Literally Arguing Over Whether FEC Commissioners Are People

You can’t make this stuff up.

(AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


The Federal Election Commission hit a bizarre new low on Thursday when its three Republican commissioners declared during a contentious meeting that two of their Democratic colleagues aren’t, legally speaking, people when it comes to petitioning their own agency.

Confused? Let me explain: Last week, FEC chair Ann Ravel and commissioner Ellen Weintraub, both Democrats, took the unusual step of filing a petition to their own commission, complaining that the agency is not doing its job of enforcing campaign finance law. The petition asked the commission to consider making new rules on several key issues, including the regulation of foreign money and the coordination between super-PACs and campaigns, arguing that currently the FEC is shirking its duty by not addressing these concerns. Weintraub said at the time that she didn’t have high hopes for substantive change but thought filing a petition highlighting the issue of deadlock might at least force a public discussion of the problem.

At Thursday’s meeting, the approval of four of the agency’s six commissioners was needed to move the petition to the next step in the process, opening it up for public comment.

Ordinarily, this is a pro forma vote, but instead the three Republican commissioners objected to the petition on the grounds that Ravel and Weintraub, as commissioners, don’t have legal standing as “interested persons.” The petition procedure is meant for citizens and members of the public, they said.

“I cannot believe that you are actually going to take the position that I am not a person,” Weintraub responded. “A corporation is a person, but I’m not a person?”

Facing off with GOP vice chairman Matthew Petersen, Weintraub asked, “You want to insist that I am not a person?”

“That’s right,” Petersen responded.

“That’s how bad it has gotten,” Weintraub scoffed. “My colleagues will not admit that I am a person. That’s really striking.”

Citing concerns about legal procedure, the commission put a vote on hold on whether to allow the commissioners’ petition to move forward to the next step in the process.

WE CAME UP SHORT.

We just wrapped up a shorter-than-normal, urgent-as-ever fundraising drive and we came up about $45,000 short of our $300,000 goal.

That means we're going to have upwards of $350,000, maybe more, to raise in online donations between now and June 30, when our fiscal year ends and we have to get to break-even. And even though there's zero cushion to miss the mark, we won't be all that in your face about our fundraising again until June.

So we urgently need this specific ask, what you're reading right now, to start bringing in more donations than it ever has. The reality, for these next few months and next few years, is that we have to start finding ways to grow our online supporter base in a big way—and we're optimistic we can keep making real headway by being real with you about this.

Because the bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. The only investors who won’t let independent, investigative journalism down are the people who actually care about its future—you.

And we hope you might consider pitching in before moving on to whatever it is you're about to do next. We really need to see if we'll be able to raise more with this real estate on a daily basis than we have been, so we're hoping to see a promising start.

payment methods

WE CAME UP SHORT.

We just wrapped up a shorter-than-normal, urgent-as-ever fundraising drive and we came up about $45,000 short of our $300,000 goal.

That means we're going to have upwards of $350,000, maybe more, to raise in online donations between now and June 30, when our fiscal year ends and we have to get to break-even. And even though there's zero cushion to miss the mark, we won't be all that in your face about our fundraising again until June.

So we urgently need this specific ask, what you're reading right now, to start bringing in more donations than it ever has. The reality, for these next few months and next few years, is that we have to start finding ways to grow our online supporter base in a big way—and we're optimistic we can keep making real headway by being real with you about this.

Because the bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. The only investors who won’t let independent, investigative journalism down are the people who actually care about its future—you.

And we hope you might consider pitching in before moving on to whatever it is you're about to do next. We really need to see if we'll be able to raise more with this real estate on a daily basis than we have been, so we're hoping to see a promising start.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate