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New FEC chair tries backdoor route to campaign finance oversight

The new chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission says the agency is going to stop defending itself when sued for inadequately policing campaign financing.

The order to FEC lawyers from Democrat Ellen Weintraub, a commissioner for 16 years who took the gavel in January, is a backdoor attempt to enhance enforcement of political donation disclosure rules at a time when the agency is in an extended period of deadlock. (Only four of the six seats on the FEC are filled – two Republicans, an independent and Weintraub – and it takes four votes for almost any action.)

If her colleagues "are not going to vote to enforce the law, I'm not going to pull any punches and I'm not going to be shy about calling them out," Weintraub told Mother Jones. "And if we get sued, that requires four votes to defend those kinds of lawsuits ... I'm not going to authorize the use of agency resources to defend that litigation."

Four campaign finance lawyers, including three who used to work at the FEC, told the magazine the move was unprecedented and had the potential to reshape the campaign finance system, depending on how the courts react.

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During his State of the Union address this year, President Trump said he would stonewall the legislative process if members of Congress don't play ball, writes Neal.

A year of broken standards for America’s democracy

Neal is federal government affairs manager at R Street Institute, a nonpartisan and pro-free-market public policy research organization.

The term "democratic norms" has become a misnomer over the last year. America's governing institutions are undermined by elected officials who dishonor their offices and each other. Standards of behavior and "normal" processes of governance seem to be relics of a simpler time. Our democracy has survived thus far, but the wounds are many.

Free speech and free press have been the White House's two consistent whipping posts. Comments such as "I think it is embarrassing for the country to allow protestors" and constant attacks on press credibility showcase President Trump's disdain for the pillars of democracy. Traditional interactions between the administration and the press are no longer taken for granted. Demeaning, toxic criticisms have become so common that they're being ignored. As the administration revokes critics' press passes and daily briefings are canceled, normalcy in this arena is sorely missed.

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The founders of Register2Vote, Madeline Eden and Jeremy Smith, preparing registration information for mailing in Texas last year.

After successful Texas debut, tech-based voter registration platform goes national

Having had remarkable success at signing people up to vote in Texas last year, an Austin group of activists is expanding its pilot program into a full-blown national effort to overcome the sometimes ignored first hurdle for people in the voting process — registration.

"There are millions of voters who are registered who don't get out to vote," said Christopher Jasinski, director of partnerships for Register2Vote. "But the unmeasured part of the pie is the actual number of unregistered voters."

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