There are four people working at the Federal Election Commission during the shutdown. There are usually 339. This is the agency that’s meant to shine a light on campaign contributions and expenditures, to let the people know who is paying for the attack ads flooding their television screens as Election Day approaches.
Campaign contributions are going into the dark.
Campaigns can still file electronically, but if the system breaks, there will be no one around to fix the problem. “And it is possible that technological problems may arise that would prevent filers from filing on time,” FEC’s website states.
But more than that, they won’t have much capacity to make the reports public. “I don’t know how to personally post the reports — I’m a little out of my league there,” commission Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub, one of the four people working, told the Center for Public Integrity. “The public will have to go without disclosures until we open back up.” Also, campaigns won’t be penalized for missing deadlines due to the shutdown.
If the shutdown lasts for a few weeks, the FEC could still be closed for a key Oct. 15 congressional filing deadline. That’s the deadline, the Sunlight Foundation explains,
for all political committees that file quarterly (a group that includes most House candidates) to have their paperwork into the FEC. Five days later, the reports of monthly filers (mostly political action committees, including super PACs) are due.
When the government reopens, campaigns that have missed filings will have 24 hours to comply. For a commission with a history of backlogs, that could further impede public postings.