The federal shutdown has resulted in the furlough of all FEC employees except the Commissioners. As with most agencies, the greatest impact on the regulated community will appear over time: On-line data will grow stale, advisory opinions will be delayed, enforcement cases will not advance. The FEC has summarized the process here.
For political committees, there will be a few immediate effects. Here are some of the more visible ones:
- Electronic filing. Reports are due this month from candidate committees (October 15), monthly filers (October 20) and for several special elections. The FEC notes that the electronic filing system may continue to work for a period of time during the shutdown, but if it begins to fail, there will be no one there to fix it. In that case, the FEC has stated that it will not issue administrative fines for late filings if the report is received within 24 hours of the agency re-opening.
- Paper filers. Reports due during the shutdown must be filed within 24 hours of the agency reopening.
- Requests for Additional Information (RFAI) letters, enforcement proceeding and other agency actions requiring a response. Because the building will be empty, responses to agency action that would otherwise be due during the shutdown will be considered “timely” if filed within 24 hours of the agency reopening.
- Assistance from the Helpline, the Reports Analysis Division and other agency staff. These services will end during the shutdown.
- Conferences and training. The agency has its annual West Coast training conference on October 23-24. In the event the shutdown continues that long, the conference will be postponed or canceled.
Entities with reports or other documents to file will need to be very attentive to the FEC reopening. The agency now anticipates all committees will file reports or other documents due during the shutdown in the first 24 hours the agency reopens. If the crisis drags on, this could create a stampede to the filing window that may challenge the agency’s computer system and staff. So being attentive to this date and ready to act will help ease the “returning to normal” headaches that are likely to follow the shutdown.