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Ellen Weintraub, Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub, Chairwoman

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2013 Government Operations / Federal Election Commission

Ellen Weintraub, Chairwoman

(Liz Lynch)

photo of Sophie Yarborough
July 14, 2013

Growing up in Queens, N.Y., Weintraub learned the value of public service from her father, who was a longtime employee of the Labor Department. So Weintraub feels right at home regulating U.S. campaign finance legislation as FEC chairwoman.

This is Weintraub’s second time in the annually rotating chairmanship of the bipartisan six-person panel. But this time around, she finds herself on the front lines of the brave new world of super PACs, which emerged after the 2010 Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court that ushered in a new era for politics. “I think we’re not going to see the full effects of that for a few cycles to come,” she said of the decision.

But while the media focused on the impact of super PACs, Weintraub points out that $675 million of the $1.3 billion raised in the last presidential election came in donations of $200 or less. An important reason for this, she said, was that the FEC speedily approved a request during the campaign season to allow donations through cell-phone texts, allowing more people to participate.

 

Weintraub, who earned a bachelor’s degree in British studies from Yale and a law degree from Harvard, is no stranger to interpreting and enforcing rules. As counsel to the House Ethics Committee earlier in her career, she focused on implementing the Ethics Reform Act of 1989. She also served as editor in chief of the House Ethics Manual and as a principal contributor to the Senate Ethics Manual. Weintraub received a recess appointment to the FEC on Dec. 6, 2002, and was confirmed to a full term in 2003. All of the FEC commissioners are serving expired terms, and Weintraub’s term expired in April 2007.

Weintraub said she strives to help people understand the law so they can comply with it. She also works to make sure FEC filings get out to the public as quickly as possible so voters can have the latest information before they go to the polls. “I think transparency is one of the key missions of the agency,” she said. “We’ve done a lot since I’ve been here to make the format of the information more accessible.”

Weintraub, 56, who is married and has three children, loves to travel and is an avid reader of mysteries.

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