Barring some kind of miraculous last-minute reprieve, Friday will be the last business day that the Federal Election Commission will be able to function for quite a while, leaving the enforcement of federal campaign finance laws unattended ahead of the 2020 election.
The commission's vice chairman, Matthew Petersen, announced his resignation earlier this week, to take effect at the end of the month. With Petersen gone, the FEC will be down to three members and won't have a quorum.
In addition to collecting campaign finance data, the FEC investigates potential campaign finance violations, issues fines and gives guidance to campaigns about following election law — but not without a working quorum of at least four commissioners.
"To not have the FEC able to take action right now is deeply concerning," says Daniel Weiner, a former senior counsel at the FEC, who's now with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University law school.
In particular, Weiner is concerned about another attempt by Russia or other actors to interfere in the 2020 election.
"After 2016, it's become very clear that it is almost certain that the Russian government and potentially other U.S. rivals will seek to interfere in the U.S. election, including through online propaganda, cybersecurity incursions and other tactics," Weiner told NPR. As the regulator for campaign spending, he describes the FEC as one of the "front-line" agencies combating foreign interference.