Statement by Lloyd Leonard, Director of Advocacy for the League of Women Voters of the United States.
The League of Women Voters has been working for fair and open elections for many decades. We have supported campaign finance reforms at the national level and in the states in order to protect our democracy from corruption and to ensure that the voices of regular voters can be heard.
This year, we see incredible dangers ahead. Special interests are spending huge sums of money to influence the upcoming elections and to influence the public officials that will be chosen in those elections. This special interest spending promises to be of historic proportions – and they are not spending this money out of the goodness of their hearts. Campaign spending is an investment for special interests and their lobbyists. They will expect a return on that investment.
We face this situation because the Supreme Court has turned the special interests loose – and it comes because the FEC is not enforcing the laws that we do have.
Any legal system depends on enforcement. When the police are absent or asleep, then the law will be broken all the time, and those who break the law will go unpunished. When it comes to enforcing campaign finance laws, the FEC is definitely asleep. There is no cop on the beat to protect the public interest.
Five of the six FEC commissioners are serving expired terms, and each of them is legally barred from being reappointed. This system is clearly broken and it’s the President’s responsibility to begin the process of fixing it.
It is time for the President to step up to the challenge, just as he promised he would in his campaign four years ago. In September 2007, he said, “As president, I will appoint nominees to the Commission who are committed to enforcing our nation’s election laws.” We are waiting Mr. President.
It is also time for Congress to provide effective oversight on the current FEC. The League is troubled that the hearing today in the Committee on House Administration does not include an opportunity for concerned citizens and concerned organizations to speak. We are worried that no one will ask the hard questions about the FEC’s failures on the job.
We must face the facts. Our campaign finance system is corrupt. Big money special interests threaten to drown out the voices and concerns of ordinary citizens. And big money gets special treatment from our elected officials.
Right now, the ball is in the President’s court. He needs to make some good nominations to the FEC, either on his own or with the assistance of a blue-ribbon committee to make recommendations to him.
With elections on the way, our democracy can’t wait any longer.