Lack of Diversity Hurts Campaign Finance Agency, Staffers Say

The nation’s campaign finance regulator, which has never had a Black commissioner in its 45-year history, needs people of color in leadership, according to its employees.

Sixty-six Federal Election Commission staffers — almost a quarter of the agency’s workforce — wrote a letter to the White House and Senate leaders Monday calling for the nomination and confirmation of “Commissioners of color.”

“Homogenous senior leadership is not reflective of the diverse nation the FEC serves, and it is detrimental to the morale and effectiveness of the agency,” they stated in the letter, which stemmed from conversations sparked by diversity training the commission employees received this summer. The “overwhelming majority” of the commissioners have been White, according to the letter.

Former commissioner Ann Ravel said FEC leadership diversity would help staff morale and benefit the agency’s work. That’s because so many commissioners come from a similar background as attorneys and staffers for candidates, elected officials and political parties. Commissioners from different backgrounds could look at campaign finance issues “more independently,” Ravel said in a phone interview.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
FEC staffers urged the nomination of a commissioner of color.

The commission staffers, calling themselves the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Working Group, said in an email that they wrote the unusual letter in their personal capacity, using their own time, and didn’t support any particular individual nominee.

Senate Democrats have recommended a Black FEC staffer, Shana Broussard, to fill a vacancy on the commission, but President Donald Trump hasn’t acted on that recommendation. There is unlikely to be any additions to the commission until after the elections.

Three Vacancies

The six-member commission has had a total of 31 commissioners since its creation in 1974. Currently, it has three vacancies and has lacked a quorum for most of the past year to vote on enforcement actions, regulations and advisory opinions. A quorum briefly was restored earlier this summer by the Senate confirmation of James “Trey” Trainor to a Republican seat on the FEC but was lost again last month with the resignation of Republican Commissioner Caroline Hunter.

The White House and top Democratic and Republican Senate leaders all had no immediate comment on the commission staffers’ letter. The current FEC commissioners also had no comment.

“I think it’s wonderful” that FEC employees banded together to send the letter asking for the appointment of a commissioner of color, Ravel said. “All employees want bosses who are respectful and care about issues you have to deal with,” she added, noting that such empathy often stems from a shared cultural background.

Ravel, who’s currently a Democratic candidate for the state Senate in California, has a minority background because of her Latin American immigrant mother. She worked to boost employee morale during her time at the commission from 2013 to 2017, noting that many FEC staffers were frustrated by the commissioners’ frequent partisan deadlocks in decision making.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kenneth P. Doyle in Washington at kdoyle@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kyle Trygstad at ktrygstad@bgov.com; Bennett Roth at broth@bgov.com

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