men sitting at a table

FEC takes shape under Hays’ watchful eyes

If you were a Congressman in the early 1970s, you were probably scared of the late Rep. Wayne Hays (D-Ohio). You definitely hated him. His dominance in Congress has had lasting effects on how elections are monitored today.

FEC stuck on the sidelines

Two major court rulings in 2010 fundamentally changed the landscape of campaign finance law in the United States. The floodgates were opened to unprecedented levels of campaign donations, much of it untraceable.

figures in tug of war

FEC debates deadlocks and dismissals

Since its founding in 1974, the Federal Election Commission has long been regarded as an ineffective agency, garnering criticism as a “toothless tiger” or a “tightly leashed watchdog.”

FEC office building exterior

What is the FEC?

Following the Watergate scandal, Congress introduced the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in an amendment to existing campaign finance regulations. An independent agency that would enforce campaign finance law, the FEC officially opened for business in April 1975.

businesswoman sitting on hourglass

Commissioners linger in ‘holdover’ status

In 1997, the Treasury and Government Appropriations Act mandated that FEC commissioners may serve a single six-year term, with no opportunity for reappointment. When a commissioner’s term expires, they may choose to continue serving in holdover status until they are replaced. Currently, three out of the six commissioners are in holdover status.

FRONTLINE: Political coverage

From the archives: Programs produced in affiliation with FRONTLINE examined campaign spending, Trump’s trade wars and an ongoing housing crisis that a federal program has yet to fix.

Protest in Washington, D.C.

Kenosha deals with complex past, present healing

Kenosha, WI helped give Donald Trump a slim margin of victory in 2016, a win that can be traced in part to the healthy majority who years ago supported the Kennedys versus racist former Alabama Gov. George Wallace.

JFK airport empty terminal

Chaos and confusion

Across the United States, state and local officials, frustrated by a lack of leadership in the White House and federal agencies, took steps on their own to prepare for the pandemic and protect their communities.