News. Debate. Community. Levers for a better democracy.

Rare FEC fine for federal contractor who gave in congressional race

Campaign finance regulators have imposed a rare fine on a government contractor for illegally donating to a federal candidate.

The decision marked a moment of unusual unanimity at the Federal Election Commission, where a 2-2 partisan split and a pair of vacancies usually results in deadlock. But this time, the agency agreed to fine Ring Power Corp., which sells and leases industrial machinery and construction equipment, $9,500 for its donations to help Florida's Republican governor, Rick Scott, when he ran successfully for the Senate last year.

It has been against the law for 75 years for companies with federal contracts to give to congressional or presidential candidates. Ring Power, based in St. Augustine, Fla., has been a contractor for a dozen years, according to a settlement agreement between the company and the FEC that was finalized last week.

The New Republican PAC, a super PAC backing Scott, returned the contractor's $50,000 gift last summer after theCampaign Legal Center, a watchdog group, filed a complaint.

"We were concerned that the FEC might allow the violation to slide because the contribution was refunded, but that didn't happen," CLC's Brendan Fischer told Roll Call. "We are certainly pleased that the FEC is continuing to enforce the ban on government contractors making political contributions, which is designed to prevent pay-to-play in the contracting process."

News. Community. Debate. Levers for better democracy.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images

We can and must embrace our diversity as the operating system of our nation, write the leaders of the Bridge Alliance.

Diverse people must be in every room where decisions are made

Molineaux and Nevins are co-founders of the Bridge Alliance, a coalition of 100 democracy strengthening organizations. (Disclosure: The Bridge Alliance Education Fund is a funder of The Fulcrum.)

As we look to history, it has always been the mystics and scientists, innovators and outliers who saw the future most clearly and acted to push — or call — society forward, to awaken from our slumber of the way things are and envision a better future. The stories of their personal transformation inspire us to be better individually and collectively. With this inspiration, we can and must transform our nation into a more perfect union.

As co-founders of the Bridge Alliance, we are inspired and challenged by the problems facing our country. Our 100 member organizations work daily to protect the ideals of our American Dream so we can create healthy self-governance that has never fully existed before. Our members work to harness the tension of our differences as we enact our inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, balancing individual and community needs.

Keep reading... Show less
Tech. Sgt. Jeff Kelly/U.S. Air Force

The Federal Voting Assistance Program assists military members who need to vote via absentee ballot. A spokeswoman for the Defense Department said there would be "minimal disruptions" if the United States pulls out of the international postage agency.

Costs to mail ballots may skyrocket for civilians, military living overseas

Election officials are growing increasingly concerned that the Trump administration's trade war with China could make it more difficult and expensive for overseas voters — including those in the military — to cast ballots in the 2019 and 2020 local, state and federal elections.

The issue is the pending withdrawal in October by the U.S. from the Universal Postal Union, a group of 192 nations that has governed international postal service and rates for 145 years.

Last October, the U.S. gave the required one-year notice stating it would leave the UPU unless changes were made to the discounted fees that China pays for shipping small packages to the United States. The subsidized fees — established years ago to help poor, developing countries — place American businesses at a disadvantage and don't cover costs incurred by the U.S. Postal Service.

With the U.S.-imposed deadline for withdrawal or new rates fast approaching, states officials are running out of time to prepare for overseas mail-in voting.

Keep reading... Show less