Check out yesterday's post for the background to this post: a request for an ethics investigation into whether FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub misused FEC resources in criticizing President Trump's claims about vote fraud swinging the close 2016 New Hampshire senatorial election.
Commissioner Weintraub responded that she would "not be silenced," inventing a justification for her earlier statement by claiming that any fraud would involve spending money and implicate campaign finance rules, while also adopting an expansive view of her "official duties as a federal election official" that involves commenting on "any aspect of the integrity of federal elections in the United States."
There are two primary problems with Commissioner Weintraub's response. First, her claims unilaterally and massively expanded the power and jurisdiction of the FEC to anything having to do with federal elections. Not only does this contravene the law, which gives the FEC jurisdiction to administer and enforce the Federal Election Campaign Act, but it contradicts the FEC's own guidance, which maintains that many issues related to federal elections are outside the FEC's jurisdiction (it is worth noting that this document was originally issued when Commissioner Weintraub was already on the FEC). So not only does Commissioner Weintraub want to ignore the law with regard to the applicability and enforcement of campaign finance rules to advance the policy goals favored by her but she also wants to disregard the statutory grant of authority to the FEC to interpret its jurisdiction as she sees fit.
Second, her free speech claim would be amusingly ironic if it were not so incorrect. As an individual citizen, Ellen Weintraub has the same speech rights as any other citizens, fully protected by the First Amendment. But as a government employee and official, her speech is limited by many laws and rules when she is using official time and resources. She has free speech but not on FEC letterhead to feign imprimatur of the agency. Her attack on President Trump's statement had nothing to do with a legitimate investigation or action by the agency. More to the point, she claims free speech to use government resources to carry on her personal propaganda against the President. But she consistently votes and advocates to regulate average Americans, even major news organizations like Fox News, to prevent them from exercising their rights to free speech. This is hypocrisy of the highest order.
Those in the election, non-profit, and political communities rightly fear an unlawful FEC, if it operated as Commissioner Weintraub would direct.