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Unmuzzle the election watchdog

Senators should not block votes on needed nominees to the Federal Election Commission.

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In a presidential primary season awash with campaign money, the federal watchdog that enforces campaign finance laws is muzzled. In a way, this is like allowing the IRS to go out of business at tax time – glee for the payers, but no way to run a country.

The Federal Election Commission is barely functioning with only two of six commissioner slots filled. That's not enough to form the quorum needed to issue regulations, start investigations, file lawsuits, or give advisory opinions.

This has been allowed to happen by the very people whose own campaigns can be subject to FEC review: US senators. Several are blocking the approval of four FEC nominees because of a fight over one of them, Republican Hans von Spakovsky.

When Mr. von Spakovsky worked for the Justice Department, he supported a voter-ID law in Georgia that Democrats believe suppresses voter turnout. The law was later ruled unconstitutional. Presidential candidate Barack Obama and several other Democrats put a hold on his nomination.

Now the entire process is frozen because the Democratic leadership wants an up-or-down vote on each of the four nominees – two Democrats and two Republicans – while his Republican counterpart insists on voting on them as a group, the traditional method.

But as senators dig in their heels, the FEC's in-box is filling up:

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