The attempt of John Gomez to become Rep. John Gomez (R-NY) failed – his effort to unseat Steve Israel (D-NY) was unsuccessful. But along the way, he received fund-raising assistance from Sean Hannity, using his platform on Premiere Radio Networks. The FEC has turned down a complaint that Hannity’s action constituted an illegal corporate campaign contribution.
What Hannity did was put his 43K-strong email list composed of his Premiere fans at Gomez’s disposal for fund-raising purposes. Democrats called foul, saying this constituted an illegal corporate donation to the Gomez campaign.
The staff of the FEC had recommended exoneration, saying that Hannity’s action fell under the “media exemption,” saying it was no different than a media outlet endorsing a candidate in an editorial.
Two of the Democratic commissioners did not agree with that assessment, but three Republican commissioners did. A third Democrat did not vote, resulting in a 3-2 vote in favor of letting Hannity off the hook. He would also have been off the hook, however, had the vote been 3-3, since it takes four votes for such a measure to be passed.
Because of the political nature of the FEC’s area of oversight, a “hung jury” is a very common result for matters brought before the six commissioners.
The failure to get a fourth vote in this case essentially deprives it of the force of precedent, according to a Politico report. The actual result is that it closes the case on Hannity, without being attached to a “formal legal finding.”
RBR-TVBR observation: You may or may not believe that the federal government is dysfunctional – but when it comes to the FEC, we believe that is the operative term. But what can you expect from an agency that is supposed to provide oversight over the political process, and whose membership is split 50-50?
The intent is to find six impartial commissioners who will judge each case put before them on the merits. But three are picked by Democrats, and three by Republicans, and the guiding principle for the past several years can be summed up in one word: stalemate.