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Federal Election Commission: a forgotten tool in Donald Trump’s ‘drain the swamp’ effort

She says she hasn’t decided what she’ll do next, but that it likely will involve working for a foundation or, perhaps, in the private sector. She’ll depart the FEC having largely seen her standing goal of revealing sources of secret money in politics stymied.

Goodman, in an interview, wouldn’t commit to staying at the FEC through 2017.

“I will make a decision early next year about my future plans,” he said.

The four other commissioners say they have no immediate plans to leave the commission, but Hunter and Petersen, in particular, could prove attractive prospects for other postings in what’s now Republican-dominated Washington, D.C.

And, save for Ravel, all of the FEC commissioners’ six-year terms have expired. But they continue to serve, because no law compels them to leave, and their authority remains the same. Come April, Weintraub will have served 10 years past her term’s expiration date, Walther eight years. Petersen’s term ended nearly six years ago, Hunter’s term four years ago.

“Congress has limited commissioners to one six-year term, and that was precisely because at the time many commissioners had been there for many years,” said Brad Smith, a former Republican FEC chairman who now leads the Center for Competitive Politics, which favors campaign deregulation. “Clearly, Congress did not want commissioners being there forever.”

A worst-case scenario in 2017?

The FEC can’t maintain the four commissioners needed by law to punish campaign scofflaws, issue formal guidance to political candidates and committees and conduct other high-level business.

This last happened at the FEC in 2008, and it prevented the agency from making many important decisions.

President Obama could yet nominate FEC commissioners before his term expires on Jan. 20.

But Obama last nominated FEC commissioners in mid-2013, when he floated Ravel and Goodman, and he has only nominated three commissioners overall during his nearly eight years in office.

Obama, meanwhile, has continued in recent weeks to nominate people to other governmental posts, including an under secretary at the Department of Veterans Affairs, an inspector general for the National Security Agency and a judge for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

White House spokeswoman Katie Hill declined to comment on whether Obama will nominate new FEC commissioners.

If Obama doesn’t make FEC nominations, the job falls to Trump, whose transition team is already struggling to fill thousands of other federal government jobs.

Were Trump to take it, it would be a “unique opportunity” for his administration to “clean the deck” and name a full slate of new commissioners, said Michael Toner, a former Republican FEC chairman and a current partner at law firm Wiley Rein.

The nation is also experiencing an era when federal courts — think the Citizens United decision, among other recent and pivotal cases — are most responsible for profound changes in election law.

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