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.
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Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.