Commissioner Ellen L. Weintraub of the Federal Election Commission joins Yahoo Finance's Kristin Myers to give her take on the 2020 presidental election results.
KRISTIN MYERS: Want to talk now about the election, the Trump campaign continuing to raise allegations of voter fraud as they file lawsuits to prevent states from certifying election results. We're joined now by Ellen L. Weintraub. She's a commissioner on the Federal Election Commission. Commissioner, wondering if you see evidence of fraud, widespread fraud, in this year's election that makes you say, you know what, we should recount the votes? Or the campaign should be filing these lawsuits?
ELLEN WEINTRAUB: No, actually. This was an extraordinarily well-run election based on impartial observers. We had European observers who were watching the election. And we've been-- the secretaries of states of every state have really been-- they've stepped up and have done a great job at running an election under extremely challenging circumstances during the pandemic. And I haven't seen any evidence of fraud.
But I'm not really surprised by that, because voter fraud is a persistent myth, but there's really very little evidence that it goes on in any but the most insignificant amounts. And this is based on studies that go back 20 years. So we don't see it historically. We haven't seen it in this election. And it hasn't-- there hasn't been documentation of it in any of the lawsuits that have been brought this year, either.
KRISTIN MYERS: So speaking of those lawsuits, in your mind, do they undermine the institution of voting going forward?
ELLEN WEINTRAUB: Well, what I worry about is that people will think where there's smoke, there's fire. If there are enough lawsuits around their alleging voter fraud, well, there must be some voter fraud in there somewhere. Otherwise, why would there be all those lawsuits? But most of these lawsuits are being dismissed very quickly as soon as they get in front of judges. And I do worry that voters will come to distrust the system and think that there was something wrong in the way this election was run, when in fact, as I said, it was really run extraordinarily well.
KRISTIN MYERS: Now you're one of three commissioners right now at the FEC and you guys are supposed to have six. The FEC has not been able to have a quorum to allow you guys to move forward on election issues. I'm wondering-- and it almost seems a little bit ironic that you guys haven't had folks appointed to the FEC, which of course, it prevents you from taking care of election issues, and now we have election issues. At least the one campaign alleges there are. What do you think the impact has been this lack of a quorum at the FEC on this year's election?
ELLEN WEINTRAUB: Well, our primary jurisdiction has to do with the money that goes to support the elections. And of course, this year was a record-breaking year in terms of money and politics. It's been estimated that something on the order of $14 billion was spent on this election. And really, for most of this year and going back to September of last year, we have not had a quorum.
So yes, I think that is a very serious situation and a very unfortunate situation. There have been three nominees, and I'm told that there is a hearing that was just scheduled yesterday. Should take place next week on three new nominees. So maybe there will be some action. But, you know, to go through most of an election year without a functional federal Election Commission strikes me as really, a very bad situation.
KRISTIN MYERS: Speaking about money, because I love talking about money in politics, Commissioner, I'm struck, lately. It seems like every hour, I'm getting a text from the Trump campaign asking me to donate money with a 1000% match to this election defense fund that they are fundraising for. What they don't say, of course, is that part of the money that they are going to be fundraising is actually going to be used to pay down debt of the campaign. They're hoping to raise $60 million. What is some of your thoughts on that? I know, folks are saying this is not illegal by any means-- and I do not want to imply that-- but wondering what your thoughts are that the campaign is continuing to fundraise after the election is over to fund what many are calling frivolous and baseless lawsuits?
ELLEN WEINTRAUB: Well, it's not actually clear that this money is funding those lawsuits. The way these solicitations are worded-- you have to go deep into the fine print-- but the first chunk of the money goes to fund a leadership PAC that the president just set up this week. And then some money goes to the Republican National committee. And it's only after that that it would go to the legal funds.
So in the first instance, it seems to be supporting this leadership PAC that the president has just set up. Leadership PACs are usually used to give donations to other candidates. They are not generally used to fund legal expenses. And one criticism of leadership PACs over the years, and I've been one who has made some of these criticisms, is that they appear to be subject to fewer restrictions than, for example, a the authorized committee of a candidate would be. There are very strong rules on say, the presidential campaign committee against personal use of those funds. And while I believe there's a strong legal argument that those rules should also apply to leadership PACs, the conventional wisdom is that they don't. So it's a fund that is generally perceived to have fewer restrictions on how it can be spent.
KRISTIN MYERS: Very quickly here, Commissioner. I know you wrote a letter to the head of the GSA urging her to begin the transition process with the Biden administration or the next administration, of the Biden presidency. What's your concern if they don't until the very bitter end with all of these lawsuits?
ELLEN WEINTRAUB: Well, I think that would be very unfortunate. I think it's in the interests of all Americans, that the new administration hit the ground running and have as much lead time as possible to get the kind of information they need from the existing administration so that they'll be ready to confront the many challenges that are going to be in front of them. And it's not just me. I mean, there have been-- there's been a call for this from a variety of sources-- former White House chiefs of staff, from Republican's side, from the Democratic side that the lawsuits do not appear to be a position to overturn the apparent results of this election.
The GSA is supposed to make a determination as to who was the apparent winner. And I don't think that's really in dispute. Everyone seems to understand who the apparent winner is. And it's not clear why the GSA is is delaying this. There is nothing in the law that requires a concession speech before the GSA can make this determination. As I said, it's just a determination of the apparent winner. There's no requirement in the law that the GSA wait for the electoral college to meet, for example, which won't happen until mid-December. And really would substantially delay the transition from getting up to speed and getting ready to do their job for the American people come January.