The Federal Election Commission: A Case for Abolition

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Expressing the frustration of many political activists,the 1984 Republican Party platform declares that "Congressshould consider abolishing the Federal Election Commission."The platform does not list all complaints about the commission,but it does note the basic constitutional problem associatedwith it: "Even well-intentioned restrictions on campaign activity stifle free speech and have a chilling effect on spontaneouspolitical involvement by our citizens." It also attacks thesheer complexity of the regulations the commission is supposedto enforce: "We deplore the growing labyrinth of bewilderingregulations and obstacles which have increased the power ofpolitical professionals and discouraged the participation ofaverage Americans."[1]

The Republicans have performed a great service by raisingthe issue of the Federal Election Commission (FEC). There isalso a sense in which the Democrats have performed a service bysuffering so visibly from campaign regulation. Examples ofthis service are presidential candidate Walter Mondale's difficulties with his delegate committees during the primaries andvice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro's tribulations inthe aftermath of an FEC investigation of her 1978 congressionalcampaign.

It is now up to others to explain in detail what is wrongwith the FEC and the law it enforces. This paper is offered asa contribution to the discussion. Many of its examples aretaken from the 1984 campaign.

Mary Meehan

Mary Meehan is a Washington-based journalist who has written widely on election laws.