This led to a strange back and forth between Matthew Petersen, a Republican, and Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat, over her personhood.
“First of all, let me say I cannot believe that you are actually going to take the position that I am not a person…a corporation is a person, but I’m not a person?” Weintraub fired back. “That’s how bad it has gotten. My colleagues will not admit that I am a person. That’s really striking.”
Caroline Hunter, another Republican, sided with Petersen, saying there was “a lot of common sense” in determining that commissioners weren’t persons.
“My children are going to be really disappointed,” Weintraub deadpanned.
“I think you’re not an alien, at least not today,” Hunter joked (we think…).
This was all sparked by a public effort by Weintraub and Ann Ravel, the FEC’s chairwoman, to file an unprecedented formal petition with the agency to issue new rules before the 2016 election for more disclosure of donations and to strengthen the ban on coordination between super PACs and campaign.
Such petitions, the Republicans on the panel argued, are meant to give citizens a voice, not for commissioners to make a point.
“The notion that the FEC is so gridlocked that its chairman must, as a ‘private citizen,’ petition the agency to initiate a rulemaking process is weird,” Center for Public Integrity’s Dave Levinthal, a money-in-politics expert, explained to us. “It’s kind of like a head coach of a football team, as a fan, petitioning his coaching staff to run a new offensive scheme.”
Our colleague Matea Gold, a campaign finance savant, tells us the hostile meeting “may have represented a new low in the long-fraught relations between the Republican and Democratic appointees on the six-member panel.” The panel is gridlocked 3-3.
Perhaps most remarkable is that Thursday’s skirmish was only over publishing the petition in the federal register – usually just a technicality. Unable to agree on that, they pushed off the decision until their July meeting.
Commissioner Steven Walther, an independent aligned with the Democrats, at the end tried to be a voice of reason.
“Until we’re willing to tolerate each other’s views, our rulemaking process is a farce,” he said.
With the FEC deadlocked on whether to even post the petition, the watchdog group, Public Citizen, refiled it Thursday afternoon. The commissioners would be hard pressed to deny an outside group the right to file.