FEC Nominees May Bring Increased Campaign Funding Security

The six-person bipartisan Federal Election Commission (FEC) is set to receive two new commissioners at a time when the FEC has fallen under criticism for lax enforcement of campaign fundraising laws and possible foreign donations to U.S. campaigns.

On Friday, President Barack Obama announced he will nominate Democrat Ann Ravel and Republican Lee Goodman to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Ravel, who is the chairwoman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, has established herself as a fierce critic of secret political donations to campaign committees and previously worked in the Obama Justice Department’s Civil Division. Goodman, a partner at LeClairRyan, is the former legal counsel and adviser to former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore (R).

“These men and women have demonstrated knowledge and dedication throughout their careers. I am grateful they have chosen to take on these important roles, and I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come,” said Obama in a statement.

Government watchdog groups have criticized the FEC for toothless enforcement of campaign funding laws and for failing to modernize FEC rules to meet the challenges and threats of today’s digitized campaign fundraising environment.

In 2012, the Government Accountability Institute (GAI) issued a 108-page report titled “America The Vulnerable: Are Foreign And Fraudulent Online Campaign Contributions Influencing U.S. Elections” that detailed numerous vulnerabilities in today’s world of digital campaign donations. According to the GAI report, Obama’s donation page and nearly half the members of Congress (47.3%) who have online donation pages do not require donors to enter their three or four digit credit card security code, thereby increasing the risk of foreign donations threatening U.S. elections.

GAI also found that Obama.com is owned by Robert Roche, an Obama bundler living in Shanghai, China with questionable business ties to state-run Chinese enterprises. Sixty-eight percent of the traffic flowing to Obama.com is foreign.

Whether Ravel and Goodman will take a tougher stance in protecting U.S. elections from foreign influence remains to be seen. Still, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) Executive Director Melanie Sloan tells the Washington Post the nominations are a step in the right direction.

“Moving to fill these two seats is one step forward in bolstering the FEC — widely considered to be the most dysfunctional agency in Washington,” said Sloan. “It is critical that the White House act expeditiously in submitting nominees to fill the remaining four positions.”


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