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Federal Election Commission (FEC) Vice Chairman Matthew Petersen announced his resignation today. Chalk up another federal agency unable to do its work. This is happening across the federal government. Many agency political appointments simply haven’t been nominated, while some, like Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)’s science division simply shut down because no staff have been hired; while others like USDA have sought to erode the agency’s work by forceably relocating its staff to places like Kansas City (and then cutting staff buyouts to boot!). This is disturbing to say the least.
Federal Election Commission Vice Chairman Matthew Petersen announced his resignation today.
This means the agency that enforces and regulates the nation’s campaign finance laws will effectively shut down — something that hasn’t happened since 2008 — because it won’t have the legal minimum of four commissioners to make high-level decisions.
Petersen’s resignation, first reported by the Washington Examiner, will throw the FEC into turmoil for weeks — and perhaps months — as the nation enters the teeth of 2020 presidential and congressional elections.
- For now, the FEC can’t conduct meetings.
- It can’t slap political scofflaws with fines.
- It can’t make rules.
- It can’t conduct audits and approve them.
- It can’t vote on the outcome of investigations.
And while staff will continue to post campaign finance reports and attend to day-to-day functions, the commission itself can’t offer official advice to politicians and political committees who seek it.
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is an independent regulatory agency that administers and enforces federal campaign finance laws. The FEC has jurisdiction over the financing of campaigns for the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, the Presidency and the Vice Presidency.
The New York Times has just announced an API that makes available the data they have gleaned from the Federal Election Commission’s electronic filings for the presidential candidates.
“The initial version of the Campaign Finance API offers overall figures for presidential candidates, as well as state-by-state and ZIP code totals for specific candidates. In addition, the API supports a contributor name search using any of the following parameters: first name, last name and ZIP code.”
This allows people with the appropriate technical skills to build mashups and other web services that take a look at donations by individual or by area with relative ease. In essence it is now possible for web developers to create views on this valuable data that previously would have involved digging through millions of FEC electronic filings.
It should also be possible for researchers with moderate technical knowledge to analyze the individual contributions going to candidates to perform statistical and other analysis on what makes for a very interesting dataset.
The New York times providing this service is certainly a positive step towards helping people make use of what is one of the richest (pun not intended) datasets the federal government has to offer.
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) “now has an online map that graphically displays individual contributions to 2008 Presidential candidates, organized by zip code. Users may also look at and compare contributions to specific candidates, all candidates, or all candidates from a political party. Republican presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaks during a town hall meeting, Friday, June 8, 2007, in Pella, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) The new system also allows users to export campaign finance data to an Excel spreadsheet.”
- FEC Helps Bloggers Track Campaign Cash, by Amanda Carpenter, Townhall.com, June 12, 2007.
The online map was modeled after graphics the New York Times’ website used to present contribution data after the first round of 2008 presidential finance reports were filed in April. The New York Times version allowed users to expand and contract bubbles, according to the size of campaign donations, over geographic areas. To build a similar map, Palmer said it would have cost the FEC $800,000. Instead, Palmer said “We’d thought we’d save the taxpayers some money” and went without the expandable bubbles. He said their map costs around $12,000 to build.
Palmer also told reporters that the FEC hopes to have a similar mapping system for House and Senate candidates this fall. If all goes well, theyâ€™ll launch â€œseventeen categories you can drill down to a very detailed levelâ€ to see who is funding all federal candidates, Palmer said.