Correction: An earlier version of this editorial misspelled Donald F. McGahn’s name. This version has been updated.
DYSFUNCTION AND conflict continue to roil the Federal Election Commission (FEC), where Republican commissioners hope to exploit their short-term majority and pass wrongheaded changes to the agency’s rules.
This summer, Vice Chairman Donald F. McGahn and two other Republican commissioners proposed barring the FEC’s general counsel, when judging whether to pursue an enforcement matter, from consulting publicly available information without commission approval. This would prohibit the FEC staff from using Google, Facebook or a newspaper to look into a possible violation of campaign finance laws without prior approval. The proposal would also limit the FEC’s ability to share information with the Justice Department.
Commissioner Cynthia L. Bauerly’s departure in February left Democrats on the commission outnumbered. Though new commissioners have been nominated and await confirmation, the Republicans are demanding that FEC Chairman Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat, put consideration of the proposal on the agenda of this month’s meeting.
Last week, House Administration Committee Chairman Candice Miller (R-Mich.) joined them. “When a federal agency keeps its enforcement policies and procedures secret or makes them difficult to understand, it increases the opportunity for abuse by its employees — abuse that has very real consequences for the Americans subject to its power,” Ms. Miller said in a statement, adding, “The revelations of abuse of certain groups by the IRS because of their political beliefs has violated the trust of every American and has diminished their faith in the government.”
Ms. Miller’s comments and similar ones from Republican commissioners distract from what they are truly after: a slim window of time in which to ram through policies betraying the authors’ suspicions of the need for an election commission at all. The fact that the proposed changes, agenda meetings and other documents are posted on the FEC’s Web site counters Republicans’ distorted assertion that FEC policies are not transparent. What is transparent, though, is that an ideological feud has paralyzed the agency.
In response to Ms. Miller’s statement, Ms. Weintraub said, “In my view, it would be highly inappropriate for the Commission to take precipitous action on a matter of this importance without giving our new colleagues the opportunity to participate.” Facing pressure and public criticism, she should remain firm. The agenda items should not be considered until the commission is operating at full capacity.