A Donald Trump appointee to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) has expressed concern that the commission may be using its authority to target political opponents of the Biden administration. This individual is the second-longest serving FEC commissioner in history.
Commissioner James “Trey” Trainor, appointed in 2020, told a House committee that the Federal Election Commission has been misused to target political opponents.
He cited prosecutions of politicians (not Trump) and a previous investigation of a pro-Trump Facebook page operator as evidence of this “growing weaponization of the government” to hinder citizens’ rights to participate in democracy.
“Make no mistake, the current headlines about the criminal prosecution of political actors reflects a trend that is going to continue for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, the commission has become part of that problem,” Trainor, a Texas election lawyer who advised Trump’s 2016 campaign, said.
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the Biden Administration’s Department of Justice (DOJ) have entered into an agreement that is raising eyebrows. Under this agreement, the DOJ can intervene in FEC campaign spending investigations and share information “secretly.” This arrangement has been met with criticism as partisan demands for investigations have increased.
He expressed concern that the agreement could lead to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) becoming involved in a system of information-sharing between executive agencies, without informing members of the public that their interactions with the FEC are documented and could potentially be used for criminal investigations.
“The process has become the punishment,” he added.
Despite the Department of Justice’s initial efforts to investigate Trainor for alleged ethical violations, they were ultimately unable to find any evidence of wrong-doing and had to clear him.
“I’m outraged at the enormous waste of time and taxpayer money that was wasted on this matter,” Trainor said in August after the final inspector general report came out.
In his opening statement, Trainor diverged from his fellow FEC commissioners by providing a comprehensive written statement that pointed to potential misconduct within the agency.
He argued that the agency had failed to adequately investigate certain violations of campaign finance laws and regulations, and suggested that further investigation was necessary.
His remarks were met with resistance from other commissioners, who seemed hesitant to acknowledge any wrongdoing on the part of the FEC.
“This is not just a hypothetical situation, requests by the Department of Justice for us to stand aside so they can pursue a target are on the rise,” he said.