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Campaign Finance
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A party-line vote in the Republican Senate put conservative Texas attorney Trey Trainor on the Federal Election Commission.

Campaign watchdog agency can reopen — but has no new ability to function

After 262 days in limbo, the Federal Election Commission can operate again. But a toxic mix of partisanship and the agency's own rules provides little hope the campaign finance regulator will soon function.

The doors can symbolically reopen because the Senate voted Tuesday, 49-43 along party lines, to confirm conservative Texas attorney Trey Trainor as a commissioner — ending the longest period ever when the panel lacked the four-person quorum required to conduct business.

But it also takes four votes to do anything consequential. And the even partisan split Trainor creates means the FEC is returning to its life for the past decade — at an impasse on almost every question about enforcing the limited laws of money in politics. The persistent deadlock is one of the main reasons the campaign finance system is derided by critics as out of control.

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Just four money-in-politics reforms remain in Democracy Madness

The two top-seeded proposals for reforming the campaign finance system cruised to victory over the weekend, setting up some pretty predictable match-ups in our Money in Politics "regional" Final Four.

Repealing the Supreme Court's 2013 Citizens United decision (No. 1) blew away the idea of giving taxpayers vouchers for donating to political candidates (No. 9). Similarly, the No. 2 seed, requiring public disclosures to shed light on so-called dark money donations, mopped the floor with the 10th seed, curbing campaign donations by lobbyists.

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