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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
When transparency, regulation and accountability were mostly aspirational.