Since last August, the Federal Election Commission has struggled to achieve a quorum. The agency — which is tasked with administering and enforcing federal campaign laws for the House of Representatives, Senate, Presidency and the Vice Presidency — is served by up to six commissioners with at least four needed to make decisions regarding federal campaign finance regulations.

What is the FEC?

The Commission was established in 1974 after reports of financial abuse during the 1972 presidential campaigns. Its doors officially opened in 1975, and it has been regulating three major aspects of federal campaign finance law ever since.

The first aspect of federal campaign finance law, public disclosures of funds raised and spent to influence elections, is regulated in order to help voters make informed decisions. The other two areas that the Commission enforces are restrictions on contributions and expenditures made to influence elections, as well as the public financing of presidential campaigns.

Why has the Commission been unable to reach a quorum?

Currently, three commissioners sit on the FEC. They include President Donald Trump’s Republican appointee Trey Trainor, who was recently appointed on June 5, Independent Steven Walther, who has been involved with the Commission since 2006, and Democrat Ellen Weintraub, who has worked with the Commission since 2002.

When Trainor was sworn in last month, he gave the commission quorum, as now ex-commissioner Caroline Hunter was also serving. The end of the commission’s 10-month-long dry spell of formal decision-making sessions was short-lived, however, as Hunter announced June 26 that she would be resigning from her role. 

Hunter’s resignation — which she explained by citing the Commission’s need for “new faces and fresh perspectives” — left the FEC once again powerless to vote on campaign finance laws and to address any loopholes that may emerge as Election Day approaches.

Upon receiving Hunter’s resignation letter, Trump immediately nominated Allen Dickerson, the legal director of the Institute for Free Speech. It is not known when Dickerson’s confirmation hearing will be held by the Senate, but the confirmation process took almost three years — from September 2017 to March 2020 — for Trainor.

“The White House could not have found a more qualified nominee than Allen Dickerson,” IFS Chairman and former FEC Commission Chair Bradley A. Smith said. “He will bring years of experience, expertise and a strong commitment to the rule of law to the Commission.”

According to the FEC’s website, commissioners appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate “serve in staggered six-year terms” and “two seats are subject to appointment every two years.” No more than three commissioners can represent the same political party.

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