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Summary of Commission Votes

           The Federal Election Commission (FEC/the Commission) administers and enforces the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) - the statute that governs the financing of federal elections. The duties of the FEC, which is an independent regulatory agency, are to disclose campaign finance information, to enforce the provisions of the law such as the limits and prohibitions on contributions, and to oversee the public funding of Presidential elections.

The six FEC Commissioners are appointed by the President.  By law, no more than three Commissioners can be members of the same political party, and at least four votes are required for any official Commission action.  This structure was created to encourage nonpartisan decisions.  In an overwhelming number of instances, the FEC achieves consensus in making its decisions.

The following charts present counts of “split votes,” which occur when the Commission does not achieve a four-vote majority (i.e. votes that were either 3 to 3, 3 to 2, 3 to 1, or 2 to 2), compared to all other votes of the Commission.  Two important notes about the following charts: 

--the votes included below include all votes at all stages of a proceeding, which includes preliminary and procedural issues; and 

--not all “split votes” represent a partisan division of the Commission.

This information is current as of June 5, 2007. 

Enforcement

The Commission enforces federal campaign finance laws and may enter into agreements including penalties for violations.  These violations can range from illegal contributions to late-filed disclosure reports.  Failure to file and late filing of reports are handled under the Commission's Administrative Fines program. Other violations may be eligible for Alternative Dispute Resolution - a program designed to efficiently address relatively modest or routine violations of the law. More serious violations are considered as "Matters Under Review (MUR)." These cases include investigations and conciliation processes which are defined in Section 437(g) of the Federal Election Campaign Act.

Following is a summary of Commission votes on Matters Under Review, Alternative Dispute Resolution cases, and Administrative Fines.  Figures for 2007 include votes through June 5, 2007.

Year

Split Votes

Total

% of Split Votes

2003

9

1036

0.9

2004

11

594

1.9

2005

12

823

1.5

2006

5

569

0.9

2007

1

525

0.2


Total

38

3547

1.1%

Audits

The FEC conducts audits of all publicly funded Presidential candidates.  The FEC also may audit other political organizations when information contained in reports or elsewhere warrant a more complete examination of a committee’s finances. The FEC votes to approve audit reports once field work and legal analysis is completed. Following is a summary of Commission votes on FEC audit reports for the period 2003 through June 2007.

Audits

Year

Split Votes

Total

% of Split Votes

2003

0

59

0

2004

0

57

0

2005

1

61

1.6

2006

5

82

6.1

2007

0

42

0


Total

6

301

2.0%

 

Regulations

The Commission issues regulations to implement the campaign finance law.  These rules are intended to define the specific requirements of the law.  FEC rulemakings can stem from Congressional changes to the FECA, court decisions, requests from outside parties, or the Commission's own experience with the implementation of the law.

The Commission ultimately reached consensus in all of its substantive rulemakings during the period 2003-2007.  In one instance, Political Committee Status rulemaking, the Commission approved regulations on some of the topics discussed, but decided not to issue regulations on the remaining topics in the rulemaking.  In three other substantive rulemakings, the Commission split on interim votes but ultimately approved final regulations covering all topics at issue - Candidate Travel Rules, Definitions of "Solicit" and "Direct," and Coordinated Communications.

The remaining split votes represented interim votes during two discussions of rulemaking priorities.  One discussion included four split votes over the particular deadlines to be set for a rulemaking project before resulting in a Commission-approved document.  The other discussion included two split votes regarding whether to open a rulemaking on a particular topic before resulting in a Commission-approved decision not to begin the rulemaking. 

Year

Split Votes

Total

% of Split Votes

2003

4

28

14.3

2004

6

30

20.0

2005

0

24

0

2006

7

29

24.1

2007

0

7

0


Total

17

118

14.4%

Advisory Opinions

The FEC issues Advisory Opinions (AOs) to clarify the meaning and application of the campaign finance law in particular circumstances.  The FEC issues AOs only upon receiving a written request from someone who is affected by the campaign finance law.

These requests describe in detail a planned course of action by an individual or group and the Commission evaluates whether those actions are permissible under the law.

The Commission issued 133 Advisory Opinions between 2003-2007.  Split votes prevented the issuance of only three opinions during this time:  AORs 2003-38 (Engel), 2006-09 (AICPA), and 2006-14 (National Restaurant Association).   In three other AOs, the Commission had interim split votes but was ultimately able to agree on a response to some, but not all, of the issues presented: AOs 2003-03 (Cantor), 2003-32 (Tenenbaum), and AO 2003-36 (Republican Governors Association).  Other split votes comprise motions to approve a particular draft of an AO where the Commission was considering multiple alternatives, or represent motions to amend an AO draft.  The Commission ultimately issued an opinion in these cases. 

Year

Split Votes

Total

% of Split Votes

2003

6

51

11.8

2004

5

51

9.8

2005

3

26

11.5

2006

7

38

18.4

2007

1

13

7.7


Total

22

179

12.3%

Combined Vote Totals

Following are totals for all FEC votes on the four subject areas presented above during the 2003-2007 period.

Split Votes

Total

% of Split Votes


Totals

83

4145

2.0%

Penalties and Fines

The following chart presents yearly totals of fines assessed by the FEC.  The years are calendar years, and the figures for 2007 are as of June 4, 2007. *(see below)   Civil penalties result from enforcement actions and are included in conciliation agreements.  Administrative Fines are assessed by the Commission against committees that fail to file required reports in a timely manner.  The Alternative Dispute Resolution amounts include penalties included in agreements reached under that program. 

Year

Civil Penalties

Admin. Fines

Alt. Disp. Res.

Totals

2001

$579,513

$515,565

$32,793

$1,127,871

2002

1,884,325

411,343

25,000

2,320,668

2003

2,184,375

730,639

29,750

2,944,764

2004

2,356,895

331,752

90,150

2,778,797

2005

1,807,769

498,748

168,800

2,475,317

2006

6,018,300

238,168

119,099

6,375,567

2007

1,858,428

165,029

11,700

2,035,157


Total

$16,689,605

$2,891,244

$477,292

$20,058,141

In response to another Advisory Opinion request the Commission was unable to agree to issue an Opinion but did not formally vote on any alternatives.  Therefore, the Commission voted 6-0 to conclude the proceeding without issuing an Advisory Opinion.  This AOR is not reflected in the split votes listed above because the only Commission vote in the proceeding was unanimous.