Troubled FEC hangs 'help wanted' sign

Elections agency aims to address computer woes, paperwork backlog

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The beleaguered Federal Election Commission is hiring up in hopes of fixing glaring computer and paperwork problems.

A "senior application developer" — who could earn up to $116,901 annually — tops the wish list for the agency that operates information technology systems that Republican and Democratic commissioners alike agree is obsolete and, in October, was successfully attacked by Chinese hackers.

The FEC is likewise hiring four staffers to help dispatch a massive backlog of disclosure reports that analysts review for errors, anomalies and completeness. It has also recently posted an opening for a computer specialist to "manage and troubleshoot" its IT systems.

The agency's backlog swelled to 2.2 million pages in November, and FEC staffers have made little progress since, as 2.1 million pages remain unchecked, FEC Chairman Lee Goodman told the Center for Public Intergity. That's roughly 21 weeks worth of work, as analysts typically process about 100,000 pages per week.

In all, the FEC's Reports Analysis Division, which is tasked with processing campaign finance reports, is down 10 staffers.

Such a status quo won't fly, Goodman said.

"Regulated political committees rely upon prompt review of their reports to catch mistakes before they ripple through several reporting periods, and the public deserves accurate financial information on the reports required by the commission," he said in an email.

Goodman added he's "confident" the FEC will hire four new analysts by March. They could make up to $55,421 annually. It's unclear whether the FEC will post additional report analysis openings later this year.

The FEC's hiring spree follows an investigative report by the Center for Public Integrity that detailed how the agency's funding and staffing levels have eroded for several years.

Two congressional committees in January began investigating the FEC's computer and resource problems.

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