September 20, 2023
WASHINGTON - Committee on House Administration Chairman Bryan Steil (WI-01) delivered opening remarks at today's full committee hearing entitled, "Oversight of the Federal Election Commission."
Chairman Steil's opening remarks, as prepared for delivery:
"Today marks the first time in twelve years the Federal Election Commission, or the FEC, has come before the Committee on House Administration.
As Chairman of this Committee, I’m focused on building Americans’ confidence in our elections by making it easy to vote and hard to cheat.
Recently, I introduced the strongest election integrity legislation in twenty years.
Now, we have passed the bill out of this Committee, and nearly one-third of the House has joined in support of the American Confidence in Elections Act.
The ACE Act makes critical reforms to support the FEC’s mission.
This includes important changes to protect freedom of speech and create more transparency in the political process.
The ACE Act adopts nearly all of the Commission’s most recent nonpartisan priority legislative recommendations, including a recommendation to get rid of the last paper filing, which promotes transparency and allows for efficient filing of reports.
Further, the ACE Act limits foreign nationals’ ability to participate in American elections.
American elections are only for American citizens.
The ACE Act accepts the FEC’s recommendation to prohibit foreign nationals from contributing to state or local ballot initiatives, or referendums.
Keeping foreign money out of our elections should be a top priority for all of us.
That’s why I’m promoting the ACE Act, which closes a loophole that’s been used by foreign billionaires to pump hundreds of millions of foreign dollars into American elections.
The FEC is comprised of six commissioners – three Republican appointees and three Democrat appointees.
For the FEC to do anything, a majority vote of the commissioners is required.
This means at least four commissioners need to agree.
Some of my colleagues on the Left have argued the Commission should be made up of five commissioners.
This would turn it into a partisan agency.
The FEC works well together and should remain nonpartisan.
In fact, since January 1, 2021, the FEC has closed 521 enforcement matters with an agreement rate of over 90 percent.
We must maintain the bipartisan structure of the FEC so Americans can trust its decisions are even-handed.
It’s important that every decision by the FEC begins with an examination of current law and the First Amendment.
Every action the FEC takes puts it up against the First Amendment.
It’s vital that Congress and the FEC ensure the agency strikes the right balance.
The First Amendment holds that political speech is protected speech, which is why the ACE Act has important provisions to protect free speech.
We want to prevent federal agencies from being weaponized.
That’s why the ACE Act will require the IRS, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and all other federal government agencies to focus on their actual missions.
The ACE Act will prohibit these federal agencies from getting involved in limiting free speech or setting Americans up for retribution for speaking their minds.
The FEC plays a major role in ensuring Americans can have confidence in their elections.
One concern I hear about, and this is really about transparency, is the inability for Americans to download the donor information of Act Blue and Win Red from the FEC’s website.
I’d like to touch on this later.
I’m glad to welcome all six commissioners and the agency’s inspector general before us today."