Campaign Contributions Go Into the Shadows During Shutdown

Come Nov. 5, voters could still be in the dark about who has been funding the candidates they are voting for.

National Journal
Brian Resnick
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Brian Resnick
Oct. 2, 2013, 8:44 a.m.

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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