FEC Fallout?

Posted May 17, 2004 at 6:40pm

Following the Federal Election Commission’s decision last week to do nothing on the topic of so-called 527 organizations, two of Capitol Hill’s campaign reform leaders are renewing their efforts to dismantle the agency.

[IMGCAP(1)] Reps. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter Friday urging other Members to sign on to H.R. 2709, the Federal Election Administration Act, which would replace the FEC with a “more efficient and effective three-member Federal Election Administration.”

Their bill calls for a “strong chairman” and reduces the number of commissioners to three in an effort to break the gridlock at the agency. Administrative law judges, meanwhile, would issue rulings on enforcement cases but the FEC would have increased powers to determine when violations of the law have occurred, impose penalties and conduct random audits of campaigns.

Rep. Phil English (R-Pa.), meanwhile, is holding a press conference this morning to unveil new legislation intended to “close campaign finance reform loopholes” and “increase 527s’ transparency.”

HHS Lawsuit. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and 18 other Democratic members of the Government Reform Committee asked a federal judge on Monday to compel Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson to release cost data compiled by the administration during Congress’ debate of the Medicare prescription drug bill last summer.

“The administration’s continued refusal to release this information has left us no choice but to go to court,” Waxman said in a statement.

In early March, Waxman and six other Democrats sought to force HHS to hand over documents that show when the administration knew the chief actuary at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services had estimated the drug bill would cost nearly $140 billion more than the Congressional Budget Office had projected.

A 1928 federal law allows seven Members to demand information from the executive branch. The failure of Thompson to hand over the Medicare cost estimate documentation represents a violation of that law, the suit contends.

Defeating DUI. Sixteen years after what is considered the deadliest drunk driving crash in U.S. history — when a school bus in Carrollton, Ky., was struck by an intoxicated driver killing 27 and injuring 30 — Congress will launch a Stop DUI Caucus, which will work with states and local communities “to help renew the nationwide war on drunk driving.”

The caucus, co-chaired by Reps. Jon Porter (R-Nev.), Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), has attracted bipartisan support, with 15 more Members signed up as of last week.

Wednesday’s kick-off event will take place at 1 p.m. in Room 325 of the Russell Senate Office Building.

— Amy Keller, Emily Pierce and Bree Hocking