Washington Beat Book

Written for reporters by reporters, the Washington Beat Book provides a crash course in government agencies for those assigned to cover the federal government. Paul Miller Fellows select and profile each agency, with relevant links and resources. Click an agency seal to browse the information compiled by our fellows, or navigate directly to an agency's website with the provided link.

Federal Election Commission

In 1975, Congress created the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to administer and enforce the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) - the law that governs the financing of federal elections. The FEC is an independent regulatory agency, and its duties are to disclose campaign finance information, enforce the provisions of the law such as the limits and prohibitions on contributions, and oversee the public funding of presidential elections.

For basic information: The website is www.fec.gov. Campaign finance reports can be found on the site, as well as information on how to get copies of documents, details on campaign finance law including the Bi-Partisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (McCain-Feingold) and advisory opinions and enforcement actions recommended by the FEC.


The six Commissioners -- three Democrats and three Republicans -- are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Commissioners serve full time and are responsible for administering and enforcing the Federal Election Campaign Act. They generally meet twice a week, once in closed session to discuss matters that, by law, must remain confidential, and once in a meeting open to the public. The executive session is usually on Tuesday and the open meeting is usually on Thursday. Meetings usually begin at 10 a.m. The meeting times and days are subject to change, and the meetings are sometimes cancelled. Best bet is to call the press office. Agendas for the open meetings are available usually three days beforehand.


999 E. St. N.W
1st Floor
Washington, DC

The commissioners discuss audits of campaign finance reports, complaints filed against campaign committees and possible enforcement actions.

While a case is open, the details are confidential. Cases can take six months or longer to be investigated. Once a case is closed, the findings and file are made public. The press office will put out a release and commissioners will sometimes put out a statement explaining their decision. The press can contact commissioners for further comment.

The commissioners are: Caroline Hunter, chair; Ellen Weintraub, vice chair; Cynthia Bauer; Donald McGahn II; Matthew Peterson; and Steven Walther.

Important dates

In a non-election year, all candidates file quarterly. In an election year, House and Senate candidate committees must file quarterly. Presidential candidate committees and national party committees must file monthly. Political action committees can file monthly or quarterly.

What kinds of stories can come out of campaign finance reports?

Reporters can glean lots of information from campaign finance data. They can examine how much candidates receive in-state versus out-of-state. They can check to see which zip code is giving the most money, what kinds of people are giving, even compare contributions among congressional committee members.

Other sources of information

The Center for Responsive Politics, www.opensecrets.org. The center is a non-partisan, non-profit research group that studies the role of money in federal politics.

Its web site is www.opensecrets.org. This site provides searchable databases of federal campaign contributions and federal lobbying, detailed campaign finance profiles for all members of Congress, links to state campaign finance data, and other information about money in politics. (202) 857-0044, ext. 111. Media contact is Viveca Novak, (202) 354-0111.

IRE's Campaign Finance Information Center helps journalists follow the campaign money trail on the national, state and local levels, www.campaignfinance.org. Located at the Missouri School of Journalism, the number is (573) 882-2042.

Does this agency's information need updating? programs@nationalpress.org

Contact Information

  • 202-694-1220

Press Contacts


Christian Hilland
Julia Queen
(202) 694-1220
Outside normal business hours contact:
Judith Ingram
(202) 531-2882 

The press office is located on the first floor of the FEC building, at 999 E. St. N.W. In addition to publicizing commission actions and releasing campaign finance statistics, the press office also handles FOIA requests.

The FEC's Information Division puts out a monthly publication called Record that lists regulations, information on court cases and advisory opinions and other FEC-related statistics. To get on the mailing list, call: 202-694-1100