The May 11 edition of The Washington Post carried an editorial entitled, "Plenty Is Wrong at the FEC."
I should like to take this opportunity to report on "What Is Right at the Federal Election Commission."
The FEC has been in operation just four years. We have experienced two election cycles and a disruptive constitutional challenge in 1976 that resulted in an extensive rewrite of the Federal Election Campaign Act and that suspended many of the powers of the commission during the critical months when the 1976 presidential primary campaigns were getting under way.
Even in the face of these problems, the FEC successfully administered a new and complicated statute that provided for the public financing of presidential elections for the first time and the monitoring of all financial activity of campaigns for federal office.During this time, we have successfully received, reviewed, computerized in whole or in part and placed on the public record more than 150,000 individual reports from over 10,000 candidates and committees. We have responded to 357 Advisory Opinion Requests; completed and released 154 audits-including 12 of the presidential candidates from 1976 who received federal matching funds; and completed some 1,054 compliance matters including a major violation of law by a presidential primary candidate.
In 1978, a complete Report on Financial Activity of all candidates for federal office and all political action committees was made available by the FEC to the public prior to the election, and this report was updated quarterly for the public's knowledge. This information on over $386 million of financial activity has been made available for the first time ever.
The FEC has developed an information service for candidates, their campaign workers and all others interested in participating in federal elections, earning the commission the reputation as one of the most helpful and accessible agencies in the federal government among those who must comply with the law and among newspeople as well.
As a result of our stewardship of the law, we have returned to the U.S. Treasury some $2,968.500 from repayments, civil penalties and fees for materials.
Far from being in "disarray" prior to the 1980 elections, as stated in The Post editorial, the FEC is largely on schedule. This is true even though senior staff and commissioners have devoted significant time and resources in recent months to the preparation of testimony and the response to inquiries for the benefit of congressional committees that are at this time considering the extension of public financing to House and Senate campaigns, and other legislation that substantially affects the commission.
In preparing for 1980, we have developed a systems manual for use by all presidential candidates who may receive matching funds. Our Audit and Reports Analysis divisions have met already with registered presidential campaigns to provide them help and guidance in setting up their record-keeping and reporting systems. The commission has prescribed amended Primary Matching Fund Regulations and is reviewing other regulations governing the public funding of conventions, presidential general-election public financing, convention delegate selection and presidential debates. We are revising our informational brochures which explain the Federal Election Campaign Act; are planning regional seminars for candidates, their campaign staffs and election administrations; and are reviewing the operations of all divisions. Finally, the FEC is closely watching the progress of two bills to extend public financing to comgressional races, and the commission is preparing contingency plans for the passage of such legislation.
In administering the provisions of the new and very complex FECA, the staff is carrying out its duties in a competent and commendable fashion. We are, commissioners and staff, dedicated to making the law work, and we accept-in fact, welcome-any constructive criticism that may contribute to the success of our mission. We ask only that our critics look at both sides of the picture, judging us on our accomplishments as well as what are perceived to be our failures.