- Public disclosure of funds raised and spent to influence federal elections
- Restrictions on contributions and expenditures made to influence federal elections
- The public financing of presidential campaigns
At the start of 2019, the FEC had 344 enforcement matters at various stages and 101 were awaiting commission action (such as a vote or dismissal). By September, the commission was able to get the numbers down to 272 for enforcement matters at all stages and 63 awaiting commission action, according to Weintraub’s year-end report. However, with the loss of a quorum the caseload has increased to about 300 and the number of cases awaiting action rose to 119, said Weintraub.
“Honestly the biggest story at the FEC is what’s not happening and that is anything that would require a working commission. It’s really unfortunate,” said Weintraub. The commission is supposed to have a six-member board, and it needs four members for its proceedings to be valid. With only three commissioners the agency cannot launch investigations, issue advisory opinions, publicize rules and make decisions on enforcement actions. This includes dealing with cases involving “illegal, undisclosed and even foreign money spending into election 2020,” the Center for Public Integrity stated.
With the presidential election less than a year away, The New York Times on Thursday reported that intelligence officials warned lawmakers last week about “what appeared to be new information” on Russian attempts to interfere in the 2020 election, just like in 2016. Election interference can take on many forms—voting machine hacking, cyber attacks, disinformation campaigns on social media and foreign spending through political action committees.
Given the ongoing threats of foreign interference in the 2020 elections, "to not have the FEC able to take action right now is deeply concerning,” Daniel Weiner, a former FEC senior counsel, now Brennan Center for Justice deputy director for election reform, told NPR in late-August. He said the agency is on the "front-line" of combating foreign interference and it will be “impossible until that seat is filled” to take up measures to prevent foreign manipulation.Leaving the FEC without enforcement power means that, should there be a violation of federal campaign finance law that has criminal penalties attached, such as foreign governments trying to aid the Trump Campaign, that law can only be enforced by Attorney General Bill Barr's Justice Department. Good luck with that.