Federal Election Commissioner James “Trey” Trainor III spoke with The Dallas Express in an exclusive interview about a new requirement that he says puts a check on unelected federal officials at his agency.
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) recently announced a directive outlining procedures for investigations conducted by its Office of General Counsel (OGC).
“The hope here is that we shut down needless investigations, so frankly, the whole place should become more efficient,” Trainor told The Dallas Express.
The directive includes requirements for election fraud investigations, mandating that the OGC present a complete investigative plan for six appointed commissioners to approve with a majority vote before agency bureaucrats proceeding.
Unelected officials were previously able to conduct investigations on their own, often without the commissioners’ knowledge, Trainor acknowledged. FEC investigations into campaign finance often focus on limits to political donations and requirements that campaigns disclose certain information about their funds.
“We should stop wasting taxpayer dollars on meaningless investigations and only go after those people who have broken the law,” Trainor summarized.
The investigative presentation to commissioners on possible election finance violations will need to provide an overview of the probe, identifying information sought as well as its potential duration, subjects, witnesses, and discovery methods.
Additionally, monthly or quarterly updates to the commissioners will be required depending on the length of the investigation. The commissioners will be able to revise their authorization based on these updates.
Trainor, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, pointed to a specific example of how FEC’s unelected officials can become overly ambitious when given complete authority.
Trainor explained that officials at the agency spent four years pursuing the publisher of a Facebook page called “Trump 2020” over fears it violated campaign finance laws on political ads. But the man behind the page, Derek Utley, spent only $483 of his own money on the page — well within the legal limit — so the case was eventually dropped.
“I hope this is an example to other agencies of having the people who are supposed to be in charge of those agencies,” Trainor told The Dallas Express.
“Nine out of 10 of the bureaucrats in those agencies don’t really care who’s in charge — they just want to do things the way they want to do them. And they’ve never met anyone outside of D.C. who is right about an issue.”
Trainor added that he hopes to see other federal agencies follow the lead of the new FEC policy. He said the issue of the “deep state” is rooted in how unelected federal officials can pursue their own agenda no matter who is voted into power.
“The larger picture across Washington, D.C., is that there are hundreds of hundreds of bureaucratic agencies where the staff inside those agencies, regardless of what party is in charge, is driving the process of how they interact with Americans,” Trainor told The Dallas Express.
“That’s the true sense of the deep state coming after people.”