FEC makes legislative recommendations to Congress

In late 2015, the Federal Election Commission issued seven legislative recommendations to Congress that had been unanimously agreed upon by the commission. Each of the recommendations – which included changes to filing, administrative fines and campaign prohibitions, among other issues – came with the intent to strengthen the campaign finance and election processes.

While the potential changes await their fate in Congress, political action committees and candidates should be aware of how the federal election process may change in the near future.

According to the agency's official meeting notes, these are the FEC's proposed alterations:

Electronically filed reports
First among the recommendations made is requiring all Senate candidates and affiliated PACs to file FEC reports electronically if their contributions or expenditures exceed $50,000, the current limit set by the FEC. The current process requires that a PAC or candidate file paper copies with the Senate secretary, which are then transmitted to the FEC. The commission posits that the current process takes far too long. 

Electioneering communications filed electronically
Along the same lines, the FEC recommended that all reports of electioneering communications typically filed on paper now be filed electronically if they exceed $50,000. These reports are not currently considered disbursements, and therefore have yet to fall under the electronic filing rules. 

Prohibitions against misrepresented campaign authority
While Congress already has prohibitions in place to address deceitful misrepresentations of campaign authority under the Federal Election Campaign Act, the FEC recommended expanding them. At the moment, the rules apply only to a federal candidate and his or her employees. The FEC would have them apply to anyone attempting to illegally interfere with a campaign. 

"In the last 15 years, the FEC has issued more than $5.3 million in fines."

A permanent fine program
In the last 15 years, the FEC has issued more than $5.3 million in fines for election law compliance violations including fines for late campaign finance reports. Right now the program only accounts for violations through the end of 2018. The Commissioners recommend making it permanent.

Increasing the threshold for federal PAC status
Many limits on campaign contributions haven't been adjusted in nearly four decades, despite a 2002 reform act. The FEC recommended to Congress that the threshold for federal PAC status be raised from $1,000, given the fact that numerous local political support groups surpass the limit on a regular basis and increasing it would ease reporting requirements for small-scale operations.

Allowing private donations to FEC
Current law prohibits the FEC from accepting donations of goods or services – like information technology services or modern PAC software – from non-government sources. It recommends changing that. Aware of the controversy such a shift would no doubt create, the FEC acknowledged strict requirements for disclosure and avoiding conflicts of interest. 

Creation of senior positions
The FEC's last proposal is a simple one – allow the creation of senior executive service positions within the agency. It is a change the FEC believes will increase talent recruitment and retention of valuable personnel.