Are the powers of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) being abused for political purposes? Some are drawing unsettling parallels between the comments of FEC’s Democratic chairwoman Ann Ravel and the IRS’s former director, Lois Lerner.
As some at the Federal Election Commission seek to broaden the power of the agency, critics are arguing that it’s beginning to look increasingly like the Internal Revenue Service under Lois Lerner, who has been accused of using her office for partisan purposes.
They take special aim at the commission’s Democratic chairwoman, Ann Ravel, who also served as chairwoman of California’s equivalent to the FEC, the Fair Political Practices Commission, before coming to Washington in 2013. Ravel has lambasted the commission as “dysfunctional” because votes on enforcement issues have often resulted in ties, and she has said the commission should go beyond its role of enforcing election laws by doing more to get women and minorities elected to political office. She has complained that super PACs are “95 percent run by white men,” and that as a result, “the people who get the money are generally also white men.”
To remedy those problems, Ravel sponsored a forum at the FEC in June to talk about getting more women involved in the political process. She has also proposed broadening disclosure laws to diminish the role of outside spending, and suggested that the FEC should claim authority to regulate political content on the Web. She’s also voiced support for eliminating one member of the commission in order to create a partisan majority that doesn’t have tie votes, saying in an interview with Roll Call, “I think it would help.”
Ravel shares the classic Democratic attitude that federal powers and regulators have an obligation to engineer politics and government to fit their view on what is “fair” in the world. They turn un-elected authority into a means to force their political views on the rest of us. It’s unethical, and it’s illegal.
So what is Washington going to do to stop it?