There’s a new controversy over whether Ellen Weintraub, who has been a Federal Election Commission commissioner for 13 years (ten of which as a hold-over after her term expired because they couldn’t find another Democratic nominee), should step down. It started on Feb. 10, when Weintraub issued a statement on FEC letterhead challenging President Trump’s claims of voter fraud in New Hampshire, escalated when Cause of Action, an outside investigatory organization, filed a request for the FEC Inspector General to determine whether Weintraub’s statement violated federal law, and became ridiculous when Weintraub shouted that she would not be a victim and began posting YouTube videos of herself leading chants at anti-Trump rallies (although only 228 people have viewed it). Bob Bauer offered a defense, but it was much more an attack on Cause of Action (“funded by the Koch Brothers”! Oh, horrors!) than a substantive buttress of Weintraub’s position.
Now former FEC Chair and current law school professor Brad Smith, who also helms the Center for Competitive Politics, has called for Weintraub to resign. Smith cites a variety of Weintraub’s mis-steps, but concludes that she has now disqualified herself for a variety of FEC inquiries. “When Commissioner Weintraub engages in ad hominem public attacks on the lawyers representing parties before her agency, repeatedly criticizes the President on matters outside her jurisdiction — or worse, within it — speaks publicly about pending MURs, and announces in advance her views on issues she will have to vote on, it is a problem, not just for her and the Agency she represents, but for the American public.”
Weintraub is a sad story and really should go or be removed. But the reality is that the FEC already has one vacancy, left when Ann Ravel left her seat on the Commission. Ravel, like Weintraub, engaged in inappropriate behavior, including saying that “my role in the commission is not to apply constitutional principles”, and even irked moderate members of the Commission. Her position has not been filled.
There’s an old adage in politics, that “you can’t beat somebody with nobody.” The most recent presidential campaign may have undercut that wisdom, but the point is that Weintraub is not likely to resign. She will have to be replaced. Let’s hope it gets done sooner, rather than later.