The Federal Election Commission gets a small year-over-year raise in Congress' new 2014 spending bill, but funding for the beleaguered agency still falls short of what it received four years ago, according to federal budget records.
The FEC is due about $65.8 million this year, $700,000 less than the $66.5 million it received during the 2010 fiscal year. Last year, its budget was pegged at about $63 million thanks in large part to across-the-board federal spending cuts.
The new agency budget — 31-word line item tucked on page 509 of the 1,582-page federal budget document — also stipulates that the FEC may only use up to $5,000 of its allotment toward "reception and representation expenses."
The meager budget increase comes as the FEC, which enforces and administers the nation's federal election laws, is enduring one of the most difficult periods in its 39-year history.
Officials there are trying to fix multiple computer security problems, including infiltration by Chinese hackers and the breach of a commissioner's computer account, while grappling with a chronic staffing shortage that's caused huge backlogs in enforcement cases and disclosure reports. The Center for Public Integrity chronicled these and other problems in a recent investigative report.
Leaders of two congressional committees — one a Republican, one a Democrat — last week called for hearings and investigations into the FEC and its troubles.
Lee Goodman, the FEC's newly installed chairman and a Republican appointee, today said Congress' budget for the FEC "will allow the commission to address its most pressing priorities," including bolstering its computer security.
Goodman said he will "need a little more time to consider" whether the budget will allow him to work on the agency's longer term problems.
Prior to Goodman's installation in October, the FEC had already formally asked Congress and the Obama administration's Office of Management and Budget for $68 million for the next fiscal year, in 2015.
In its request, the FEC argued that recent funding reductions have had “a significant negative impact on the human capital management and daily operations of the agency."
The request continued: “Further reductions… will be detrimental to the agency’s ability to fulfill its mission and provide adequate services to the American public.”
In 2005, 385 people worked at the FEC. By late last year, just 338 people worked at the agency, which ended 2013 with 2.2 million pages worth of campaign finance disclosure reports not reviewed for errors, anomalies and completeness.
That's a 22-week backlog, Goodman estimated at the time.