FEC chair says Giuliani associates' alleged crimes are just the 'tip of the iceberg' for dark money
When Republican Commissioner Matthew Peterson resigned from the Federal Election Commission in August, he rendered the independent agency essentially impotent. He left the FEC with only three commissioners, which is too few to form a quorum and take substantial actions as an agency, right as the 2020 election kicked into gear.
That's why a warning from FEC Chair Ellen Weintraub given in an interview with the Washington Post is so troubling. Discussing the recent election law charges brought by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York brought against Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, associates of Rudy Giuliani, Weintraub said the allegations are just the "tip of the iceberg."
Parnas and Fruman were charged with conspiracy and violations of federal election law. Prosecutors said they coordinated to criminally funnel foreign money into American politics.
But the world of dark money influencing elections — exactly the sort of behavior that federal law is meant to guard against — extends much further than this case, Weintraub warned.
“There may well be a lot of money that is slipping into our system that we just don’t know about,” she told the Post.
But a toothless agency will have little ability to address these problems.
Weintraub, a Democrat, has also repeatedly highlighted that soliciting foreign help in elections is illegal while Trump has repeatedly made clear he wants such assistance. In fact, Trump is now in process of getting impeached over his request to Ukraine for an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential 2020 rival of the president.
“When campaign finance issues are on the front pages of the newspaper every single day, this is a particularly bad time for the FEC not to have a quorum and not be able to respond to enforcement matters, not to be able to have new rulemaking or issue advisory opinions,” Weintraub said.
After the announcement of the charges against Giuliani, other observers shared worries that echo in Weintraub's concerns.
“Today’s indictments, though, likely represent only the tip of the iceberg in terms of foreign meddling in general but also by Parnas and Fruman,” said Paul S. Ryan in a statement Friday on behalf of the watchdog group Common Cause. “Both men were also heavily involved in the efforts by the White House and President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate unsubstantiated allegations against Trump’s political rival Joe Biden.”