Tuesday, December 16, 2008, 2:04 PM


The FEC has announced action on only 38 enforcement cases this year, compared to an average of 100 in each of the previous years, according to BNA Money & Politics.

No doubt Commissioners have labored to work through a backlog built up over the first six months of 2008, a period during which the Senate was deadlocked over new appointments and the FEC lacked a quorum. Under the FEC’s unusual procedural rules, four or more Commissioners on the six-member panel must formally authorize an investigation before the staff may pose even a question to a potential witness. More in line with other agencies, settlements and suit authorization also require four votes. We’re sure, too, that Commissioners have revisited decisions made by their predecessors – which they have every right to do.

At the same time, we suspect that a bunch of cases will come tumbling out of Santa’s bag, just in time for Christmas – lots and lots of routine matters, but buried within, a case or two that on an ordinary day would raise eyebrows. "Christmas communications" they're called by election law insiders – announcements that refer to clearly identified FEC cases, issued in the week before Christmas. These tend to melt away quietly like December snow, as rendered in this holiday verse:

‘Twas two days before Christmas at the Federal Election Commission,
When the press office issued a quiet transmission.

Whispers of cases backed up for weeks,
The docket shakes loose, with hardly a squeak.

Big news and small news all mixed in the batter,
No reporters in town to see what is the matter.

No watchdogs! No Congress! Off to Dulles they’ve fled!
With visions of Obama dancing ‘round in their heads.

It’s tradition in Washington, so forgive them their sleight,
Happy Holidays to all, and to all a good-night!

If you have any questions or would like more information, please feel free to contact Larry (LNorton@wcsr.com, (202) 857-4429) or Jim (JKahl@wcsr.com, (202) 857-4417).
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