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FEC Chair Ann Ravel Calls Her Organization As Useful As Men's Nipples

If you were depressed already about the billionaires buying our politicians, this story isn't going to make you feel any better.
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If you were depressed already about the billionaires buying our politicians, this story isn't going to make you feel any better. After The Daily Show's Trevor Noah opened the show this Thursday with a look at all of the Super PACs out there giving money to our presidential candidates, correspondent Jordan Klepper sat down with FEC Chair Ann Ravel to discuss what's keeping her agency from doing its job, and surprise, surprise, it's partisan gridlock with three Republican commissioners who are determined to make sure the FEC does not function in acting as a watchdog over our elections in any way, shape or form.

After a good deal of ribbing by Klepper about how depressing it must be to work there, and a very serious look at the dysfunction of the agency, Ravel told Klepper that the likelihood of them tamping down on any of the abuses we've seen this election cycle is "slim." When asked by Klepper if the FEC is "more or less useless than men's nipples" Ravel responded that "they're probably comparable." As Klepper rightfully responded... "God help us all."

Here's more from the NYT on the how broken our system is: F.E.C. Can’t Curb 2016 Election Abuse, Commission Chief Says:

The leader of the Federal Election Commission, the agency charged with regulating the way political money is raised and spent, says she has largely given up hope of reining in abuses in the 2016 presidential campaign, which could generate a record $10 billion in spending.

“The likelihood of the laws being enforced is slim,” Ann M. Ravel, the chairwoman, said in an interview. “I never want to give up, but I’m not under any illusions. People think the F.E.C. is dysfunctional. It’s worse than dysfunctional.”

Her unusually frank assessment reflects a worsening stalemate among the agency’s six commissioners. They are perpetually locked in 3-to-3 ties along party lines on key votes because of a fundamental disagreement over the mandate of the commission, which was created 40 years ago in response to the political corruption of Watergate.

Some commissioners are barely on speaking terms, cross-aisle negotiations are infrequent, and with no consensus on which rules to enforce, the caseload against violators has plummeted.


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The F.E.C.’s paralysis comes at a particularly critical time because of the sea change brought about by the Supreme Court’s decision in 2010 in the Citizens United case, which freed corporations and unions to spend unlimited funds in support of political candidates. Billionaire donors and “super PACs” are already gaining an outsize role in the 2016 campaign, and the lines have become increasingly stretched and blurred over what presidential candidates and political groups are allowed to do.

Watchdog groups have gone to the F.E.C. with complaints that probable presidential candidates like Jeb Bush and Martin O’Malley are skirting finance laws by raising millions without officially declaring that they are considering running.

Ms. Ravel, who led California’s state ethics panel before her appointment as a Democratic member of the commission in 2013, said that when she became chairwoman in December, she was determined to “bridge the partisan gap” and see that the F.E.C. confronted such problems. But after five months, she said she had essentially abandoned efforts to work out agreements on what she saw as much-needed enforcement measures.

Now, she said, she plans on concentrating on getting information out publicly, rather than continuing what she sees as a futile attempt to take action against major violations. She said she was resigned to the fact that “there is not going to be any real enforcement” in the coming election.

“The few rules that are left, people feel free to ignore,” said Ellen L. Weintraub, a Democratic commissioner.

Republican members of the commission see no such crisis. They say they are comfortable with how things are working under the structure that gives each party three votes. No action at all, they say, is better than overly aggressive steps that could chill political speech. Read on...

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