Former FEC Chair: FEC Complaints ‘Absolutely’ Biased Against Republicans

Democrat Ann Ravel says liberal groups responsible for most complaints

Ann Ravel / Youtube
• June 5, 2018 4:00 pm


Ann Ravel, the former Democrat chair of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) who wanted to regulate Internet speech, said that complaints brought before the commission are "absolutely" biased against Republicans.

Ravel made the comments during an interview with the alumni magazine of U.C. Berkeley, her alma mater where she is now a lecturer at its law school.

When asked if there were any way that the number and types of cases that come before the FEC could be biased against Republicans, Ravel said yes.

"Absolutely. The cases have come primarily from watchdog groups, and most of those groups are on the liberal side," Ravel said. "However, they have also brought cases against Democratic committees. In fact, we had a case during the primary for the 2016 election that was brought by one of those groups against the Hillary Clinton campaign. The Democrats on the commission voted to investigate it. The Republicans voted to dismiss the case entirely."

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a "watchdog" organization that is often deemed "nonpartisan" by the media despite being a liberal group, is one such group that regularly files complaints to the FEC against Republicans. David Brock, the liberal operative and Clinton ally who founded Media Matters for America and a number of other groups, formerly chaired CREW.

Ravel specified in an email to the Washington Free Beacon that more complaints were made against groups that contribute to Republicans and that "Republicans on the FEC refused to enforce those cases, both by refusing to hear them in a timely fashion, or by not voting to investigate them after a hearing."

Democrats on the commission have also been accused of playing partisan politics with individual cases, including giving left-leaning groups a pass on alleged violations while being more critical towards Republican groups, and also voting against Republican appeals while voting in favor of Democrats.

"I appreciate the concern, and I cannot speak for Commissioner Weintraub or an about face from a previous vote, as I was not on the Commission at the time," Ravel said about one example provided over email of Democrats being accused of partisan politics.

Regarding another example dealing with Sens. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.) and Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) avoiding fines for missing filing deadlines, Ravel blamed it on the "Byzantine system where the Senate refused to provide an online filing process it was not put in the public record on time" and that it seemed like a "minor violation" as they "both actually filed all their documents in a timely fashion."

A former FEC staffer said the commission's complaint process has been "weaponized." 

"The FEC complaint process is being weaponized against conservatives, from the outside and sometimes even from inside the building," the former staffer said, who added that the FEC's enforcement agendas often consisted of three complaints against Republican groups for every one complaint against Democratic groups.

Ravel was appointed to the commission in 2013 by President Obama and later became embroiled in controversy after pushing to regulate Internet speech, which some saw as targeting conservative news sites such as the Drudge Report.

Ravel phoned it in from California during her final months with the commission after being passed up for the attorney general position in the state. During one call, Ravel seemed so distant that the chair asked if she were awake.

Despite Ravel's actions, she requested the commission hold a special session to vote on a foreign-funded junket that would allow her to travel to Ecuador to observe their elections.

Following the Free Beacon's publication of the story, Ravel's special counsel said that Ravel did not attend the FEC meetings due to other commitments, and that she would not be participating in the trip.

Ravel resigned during the week she would have been in Ecuador.

Published under: FEC