According to Federal Election Commission reports updated through this morning, hundreds of independent expenditures made in the last 19 days before the election, were reported to the FEC after the mandated 24-hour deadline. 116 of these expenditures were not reported for a full week, delaying journalists and citizens in their efforts to uncover the identities of the corporations unleashing wave after wave of attack advertisements against congressional candidates. Knowledge delayed is effectively knowledge denied, since now it is too late for information about the corporate funders of campaign attacks to make any difference on the outcome of the 2010 congressional elections.
These numbers are initial indications of noncompliance; the full extent of rule breaking by these political corporations is not yet fully known, since a number of independent expenditure reports regarding the election continue to be delayed by tardy reporting, held back from the eyes of the American people.
Can we count on the Federal Election Commission to stop this flagrant rulebreaking that keeps Americans in the dark until it is too late?
Here’s your answer: in the year to date, the FEC has issued just 21 administrative fines totaling $16,070 to be paid by rulebreakers who filed in tardy fashion. In 2009, just 16 fines were issued, totaling $22,749.
When there is weak enforcement of rules to promote transparency, and when fines pale in comparison to the size of expenditures, the rules are meaningless. In the struggle to keep campaign finance transparent, it appears we’ll get little help from the enforcement division of the FEC.