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FEC Update: The Agency Gains & Loses Commissioners

cmdi | Mon Jan 23, 2023

For a few weeks this summer, the Federal Election Commission had a quorum of commissioners.

With the confirmation of Trey Trainor by the U.S. Senate on May 19, the FEC had the four members required to take actions that require a vote. However, the quorum ended on July 3 when Caroline Hunter, Republican, resigned.

Following the news of her resignation on June 26, the White House immediately announced the nomination of Allen Dickerson, legal director for the Institute of Free Speech, to replace her.

Hunter was appointed by President Bush and has served since 2008. While commissioners are appointed to six-year terms, members may serve indefinitely after their term ends if no replacement is appointed.

Her announcement returns the FEC to its previous make-up: one Republican, one Democrat, and one independent. While the agency maintains full-time staff who enforce election laws, the FEC’s actions are limited to activities that do not require a vote:

  • Receive complaints on infractions and ruling recommendations from the general counsel.

  • Accept contribution and spending reports from political committees.

  • Continue access to and upkeep of campaign finance data through the FEC’s website.

  • Assist political committees, the press and the public with campaign finance-related questions.

During the nine months the FEC was previously without a quorum, the backlog of pending cases grew to 333 with 160 requiring a vote by the commission.

Trainor, an attorney from Texas, previously served as counsel for the Trump campaign and RNC. Due to agency regulations requiring chairs to be serving their active terms, Trainor was elected to the year-long chairman position.

He was first nominated to the FEC by President Trump three years ago, but debates over the remaining open positions delayed hearings.

With Trainor’s confirmation and Hunter’s resignation, the commission is left with two holdovers from the Bush Administration. Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat, has served since December 2002 and her appointed term ended in 2008. Stephen T. Walther, and independent, has served since June 2008, and his term ended in 2014.

Since Weintraub and Walther have served past their six-year terms, President Trump could nominate five new members if no more than three commissioners are from the same political party. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell repeated his support for a new slate at Trainor’s hearing in March.

Since no date has been set for hearings over the nomination of Dickerson, it is unclear when the FEC will return to having a quorum.