Idled FEC recalling workers to fix computing crash

Key disclosure databases have been offline since Monday as filing deadlines loom

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A computer server crash is forcing the government shutdown-idled Federal Election Commission to recall "a few staff people" to address the issue with major campaign finance filing deadlines looming. 

Key sections of the FEC's website, such as those containing financial disclosures by political candidates, committees and parties, have been offline since Monday. Downloadable databases are also malfunctioning.  

It "could take a couple of days" before the underlying problems are fixed, FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub told the Center for Public Integrity, adding that she hopes "to have the website back up soon."

An error message on many FEC pages this morning simply reads: "Certain interactive systems on the FEC's website may be unavailable due to lack of staffing during the furlough. We apologize for the inconvenience that this may cause."

Weintraub and her three fellow commissioners are the only FEC employees among 339 to avoid being furloughed during the government shutdown. (Two newly appointed commissioners, Lee Goodman and Ann Ravel, don't expect to begin their terms until later this month.)

Percentage-wise, this means the FEC has furloughed almost 99 percent of its workforce, not counting any recalls to address its computer woes. 

That's a significantly greater blow than endured by many high-profile federal agencies, which in some cases have been able to keep many employees deemed "essential" on the job.

Candidates and political committees involved in Massachusetts' 5th District special congressional election and New Jersey's special U.S. Senate election have campaign finance disclosure reports due this week.

But since no FEC employees are immediately available to field questions or troubleshoot computer problems, it's unclear whether these disclosures will become public as scheduled.

Congressional candidates have an Oct. 15 deadline for filing their third quarter campaign finance reports.

In a recent tweet, Weintraub recommended that committees involved in the Massachusetts special election post disclosure reports to their own websites given the FEC site's problems. 

Do-it-yourself disclosure, she wrote, "may be best public can get today."