FEC can't help Kentucky GOP because of ... Kentucky’s McConnell
The Kentucky Republican Party is alleging campaign finance wrongdoing by a radio host considering a longshot bid for Mitch McConnell's Senate seat. But the complaint won't ever get answered without the help of the Senate majority leader himself.
That's because the case has been filed with the Federal Election Commission, which is now into its third month without the minimum membership necessary to begin even the most routine enforcement proceedings. And the reason for that is Kentucky's own McConnell. In his view the FEC that regulates best is the one that regulates least, and so he's bottled up the nomination that would give the agency a four-person quorum.
The agency has been at a policymaking standstill since the beginning of September, when Republican commissioner Matthew Petersen resigned leaving just three of his colleagues behind.
At the start of November, the FEC had a backlog of more than 300 enforcement matters, 90 of them awaiting decisions by the commissioners.
President Trump two years ago nominated Texas attorney Trey Trainor, a Republican, but the Senate has not so much as held a hearing on him. And, since all three remaining commissioners are serving past the expiration of their terms, which the law allows, some in the GOP say the time is ripe for Trump to put forward an entire slate of six. By law no more than three could be from his party.
Democrats say that, as an interim step, they would be content to seat one new commissioner from each side so that enforcement could get started along with the real ramp-up in 2020 presidential and congressional campaign fundraising activities.
The complaint filed Wednesday alleges that popular liberal sports radio host Matt Jones is improperly receiving corporate contributions in the form of free air time from iHeartRadio, the distributor of his sports talk show, and Simon & Schuster, the publisher of his upcoming book about McConnell.
While the FEC is powerless to act, one of the nation's biggest radio networks is not, and on Thursday iHeartRadio took Jones off the air until he decides whether to run.
Jones has not yet officially filed papers declaring his run next year. But he did launch an exploratory committee in September and his most recent FEC filing (the agency is still allowed to accept those) says the committee's only income has been a $9,702 loan from the prospective candidate.
If Jones gets in the race he would face tough competition for the Democratic nomination from Amy McGrath, a retired Marine fighter pilot and unsuccessful 2018 House candidate who has already raised $10 million.
Jones' book deal has been a thorn in the Republican Party's side as well. To promote the book (tentatively titled "Mitch, Please!") he plans to travel to all 120 counties in Kentucky to detail how, in his mind, McConnell has had a negative impact on the state throughout his 30-year Senate tenure. The complaint says this book tour is "inextricably linked" to Jones' political campaign.
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Efforts to fend off election hackers in 2020 and beyond have revolved around protecting ballot equipment and the databases of registered voters. Little attention has been focused on the vendors and their employees.
But the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice is proposing that the vendors who make election equipment and related systems be subjected to heightened oversight and vetting, much like defense contractors or others involved in national security.
"There is almost no federal regulation of the vendors that design and maintain the systems that allow us to determine who can vote, how they vote, or how their votes are counted and reported," according to a new report from the nonpartisan policy institute.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has a message for corporations: The country is in trouble, so get off your butt.
The foundation made its pitch to the business community in a newly published white paper chronicling the sorry state of civics education, the role that corporations can play in healing a divided country and why it should all matter to businesses.
The health of civics education is "quite bleak," foundation President Carolyn Cawley said in an introduction to the paper, which she called "the first step in our efforts to make the business case for civics."
With the support and buy-in of the private sector, the foundation believes, the country stands a better chance at improving civic education and engagement, which in turn could heal the in-fighting, distrust and misinformation undermining the health of the country and well-being of corporate America.