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Shutdown Stops the Regulation of Campaign Money

Here's one way the partial government shutdown is doing particular harm to the work of good governance: The already minimal regulation of money in politics has been suspended. All but 30 of the Federal Election Commission's 300 employees have been furloughed since the funding impasse began 27 days ago and the year's first meeting of the commissioners had to be scrapped.

"The lapse in government funding means that enforcement of campaign finance laws that hold politicians and political committees accountable has stopped," all nine Democrats on the Senate Rules and Administration Committee wrote in a letter to the agency's chairwoman, Ellen Weintraub. "The lack of law enforcement and transparency brought on by the government shutdown has severe implications for the health and security of our democracy."

The senators pressed for reassurances the shutdown would not prevent the FEC from getting its systems for enforcing campaign finance violations and disclosing contributions quickly up to speed when the impasse ends. And they asked pointedly what lessons the agency had learned from the last extended shutdown, five years ago.

"During the 2013 government shutdown, Chinese hackers managed to break into the FEC's computer network because not a single employee was present for the prevention of such a threat," they wrote, a reminder of what the Center for Public Integrity described at the time as likely "the worst act of sabotage" since the agency was created soon after Watergate. "The FEC has been maintaining a 'skeleton staff' of employees, presumably leaving the commission in a better position than in the past. However, it remains unclear the precise extent to which the present shutdown leaves the FEC prone to similar cybersecurity breaches."

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