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  • strategic plan

Strategic plan, FY 1998–2003

November 1997

Submitted to OMB/Congress November 21, 1997
Revised November 22, 1999


As directed by the House Committee on Appropriations, OMB, and the GPRA, the FEC submits this Strategic Plan with our FY 2001 Budget Request. The Strategic Plan provides the framework for how the Commission will utilize its resources to implement and enforce the campaign finance laws during the 1998 (FY 1998-1999), 2000 (FY 2000-2001), and 2002 (FY 2002-2003) election (campaign) cycles. This concept, and the definition of an election cycle, is explained below.

The FEC first submitted a Strategic Plan in 1995 in conjunction with our FY 1997 budget request. We have necessarily revised our Strategic Plan to comply with any additional guidance provided by OMB and to reflect changed circumstances. The information in this plan is consistent with all currently available OMB guidance including OMB Circular A-11, as revised, per Transmittal Memorandums for all OMB A-11 Supplements. The plan will be modified in accordance with any future OMB guidance to agencies concerning compliance with the provisions of Public Law 103-62, the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA).


The ultimate mission of the FEC is to assure that the campaign finance process is fully disclosed and that the rules are effectively and fairly enforced, fostering the electorate's faith in the ultimate integrity of the nation's political process.

The sanctity of the political process is key to public faith in the policy decisions made by the elected and executive branches of government. Desired outcomes from the successful achievement of this mission include providing the electorate with the capability to make educated, informed decisions in the political process as to where candidates for federal office derive their financial support, and the confidence that those who disregard the FECA’s restrictions on campaign financing and/or its requirements for public disclosure will suffer real and evenhanded consequences for non-compliance.

In attaining these outcomes, the FEC strives to foster and maintain an attitude of voluntary compliance with the rules of the campaign finance process. The FEC realizes that voluntary compliance and public confidence are necessary because limited budgetary resources preclude massive efforts to enforce the FECA.

The vehicle provided by Congress for accomplishing this mission is the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) as amended. Administering and enforcing the FECA includes facilitating public disclosure of campaign finance activity; providing information and policy guidance to the public, press, political committees, and elections officials on the law and Commission regulations; encouraging voluntary compliance with the disclosure and other requirements of the FECA; and enforcing the statute through audits, investigations, and civil litigation. Administering and enforcing the FECA also involves implementing the public funding programs for Presidential campaigns and conventions. This includes certification and audits of participating candidates and committees, and enforcement of public funding legislation.


In order to achieve this mission, the FEC has identified four major goals and objectives. Because it is difficult to quantify and measure faith in a political process, we have tied these four goals and objectives to four core programs, which themselves are more easily subject to quantification and measurement:

PROGRAM I. Promoting disclosure of campaign finance reports required to be filed for public view under the FECA (Title 2): to promote full, accurate, and timely disclosure of campaign finance activity in federal elections, and to provide information and policy guidance on the FECA to the public, press, and those persons and entities required to comply with the FECA.

PROGRAM II. Enforcing the disclosure and limitations provisions of the FECA (Title 2): to encourage and obtain voluntary compliance with the disclosure and limitations provisions of the FECA through enforcement of the FECA in a timely, consistent, and comprehensive manner.

PROGRAM III. Implementing the presidential election public funding provisions of the FECA (Title 26): to successfully administer the public funding provisions of the FECA under Title 26 U.S.C. for qualified candidates in presidential elections.

PROGRAM IV. Enhancing federal election administration: to assist state and local election officials charged with administering federal elections through operation of the National Clearinghouse on Election Administration.

It is assumed that the successful outcomes of these programs will ultimately lead to the successful achievement of the Commission's mission to assure public confidence in the campaign finance system.


The desired mission related outcome is that the public has a high level of faith and trust in the fairness of the campaign finance and political processes. Program related outcomes include:

Program I, Public Disclosure. Outcomes:

  • That sources of campaign funds in federal elections are accurately, fully, and timely disclosed to the public;
  • That the electorate can make informed decisions as to the sources of campaign funds for candidates for federal office;
  • That the electorate can readily obtain campaign finance information directly from the FEC in usable formats;
  • That the press and media can use FEC data to more widely disclose campaign finance information;
  • That the public and the campaign finance community can easily obtain policy guidance and assistance in understanding and complying with the FECA.

Program II, compliance. Outcomes:

  • That the public has confidence that the FECA is fairly and swiftly enforced;
  • That the election community has a high level of confidence that the FECA is fairly enforced, resulting in a high level of voluntary compliance with the FECA;
  • That the election community believes that there are real, timely consequences for violation of the disclosure and limitation provisions of the FECA;
  • That limited FEC enforcement resources are focused on the most salient and significant compliance concerns under the FECA.

Program III, Public financing. Outcomes:

  • That the successful implementation of the public funding provisions of the FECA continues for each presidential election;
  • That all federal funds disbursed in presidential elections are properly certified and accounted for by eligible candidates;
  • That all audits and enforcement actions related to public funding are completed in a fair and timely fashion;
  • That there are real and timely consequences for failure to comply with the FECA requirements under title 26.

Program IV, Election Administration. Outcomes:

  • That the FEC complies with all statutory responsibilities under the NVRA (National Voter Registration Act) and Voting Accessibility Act, to help improve the national level of voter registration and accessibility of polling places;
  • That state and local elections officials receive informational and educational assistance in administering federal elections in an efficient and effective manner;
  • That public confidence in the fairness and reliability of the polling process in federal elections remains high.


Definition of an Election Cycle

The Commission defines its work generally in the context of election cycles. There are, however, many definitions of an "election cycle." For example, for disclosure database purposes, the FEC thinks in terms of four calendar years, i.e. the 1996 Database begins in January of 1995 and continues through December of 1998. However, the press and academicians define an election cycle as the preceding and actual election years.

In the context of this Strategic Plan, the FEC notes that the actual 1998 election occurs in FY 1999, and that the break in fiscal years (October 1) comes in the middle of the peak pre-election period when the FEC experiences its heaviest workloads for many programs.

As a result, for budget and planning purposes, the FEC generally considers an election cycle to include the election year and the following year, i.e. FY 1998 and FY 1999 comprise the 1998 election cycle for the purposes of this Strategic Plan. However, the flow of work for programs such as audits and enforcement actions is such that action on the referrals for audits and compliance actions from the 1998 election most likely will not be finalized for three to four years after the election cycle. This is particularly true for presidential audits and enforcement cases arising from the public funding provisions of the FECA. Therefore, work undertaken or completed in any fiscal year will necessarily include work arising from two or more election cycles.

Strategic Plan and Election Cycles/Performance Plan and FY's

The Strategic Plan discusses performance goals and workloads by election cycle (unless otherwise noted), while the Performance Plan relates the activities of the specific fiscal year (FY 2001) to work from several election cycles. The Performance Plan also relates the performance goals for the FY to the levels of funding, relating the impact of reduced funding to the obtainable level of outcomes possible.


The targets and goals included in this Strategic Plan were originally based on the assumption that the Commission received an appropriation sufficient to fund 360.5 FTE in each FY in a presidential election cycle, what we termed a "Current Request Performance Level" of funding. In essence, this is the "Reduced Performance Level" of our previous Strategic Plans, modified to add the 47 FTE we believed were essential to handle the heavy compliance workload, prepare for the 2000 presidential election, and provide support for our ADP modernization.

In several areas the Current Request Performance Level fell short of the performance goals we identified in prior Strategic Plans at a "Standard Performance Level" based on an FTE level of 332. For example, there would be slippage of the time frames for completion of data collection, reports review, and referrals for audits and/or compliance actions, as well as for responsiveness to requests for information and data inquiries. Because our appropriations in recent years fell well short of the amount needed to fund 332 FTE, and because our greatest concerns lie with the adequacy of the compliance program, we revised our Strategic Plan to set forth performance goals that reflected more accurately how the agency would be functioning at the Current Request Performance Level. However, should we find that certain functions clearly need more resources, for example in the reports review area where delays in sending requests for additional information or referring matters for audit or enforcement can be serious, we will modify this Plan and/or budget requests as appropriate.


In order to meet the outcome goal that the public is capable of being fully informed about campaign finance sources, during each federal election cycle (primaries and the general elections) the Commission will accomplish the following:

A. Place between 80,000 to 85,000 reports and 20,000 to 25,000 statements from over 8,000 committees filing reports on the public record each election cycle.

  1. Complete coding and entry of summary data from documents and statements filed each cycle and meet the 48 hour deadline for making documents public for 99% of those filed;
  2. Complete coding and entry of itemized data from reports filed, including 1.5 to 2.0 million itemized transactions per cycle, completing 95% within 45 days of reports being received (quarterly filing periods) at the FEC;
  3. Complete the review of all reports filed and refer all potential enforcement actions and audits each cycle, 75% of reviews within 120 days of receipt;
  4. Issue 17,500 Requests for Additional Information (RFAI’s) per cycle to correct the public record, 60% within 90 days of receipt of report (getting back to filers within 90 days minimizes repetitious errors which tend to further burden the disclosure process); respond to requests for assistance from 21,000 filers per cycle.

B. Produce analytical summaries and releases of campaign finance data in summary form, and in the aggregate and by individual committees, periodically prior to each election, and in summary form after each general election:

  1.  Analytical releases after each election year quarterly report and the pre-general election report; 
  2. Summary statistical analyses after each election cycle in book form: Reports on Financial Activity or RFAs;
  3. Undertake a database accuracy review monthly for summary and itemized data entry.

C. Make FEC database and data available to requesters directly through computerized access:

  1. Provide free access to the FEC disclosure database to all state elections offices wishing to participate: currently over 30 states;
  2. Provide timely on-line access to the FEC disclosure database to the public through the services of the Data systems Division and the storefront Public Records Office.

D. Respond to over 500,000 requests for data, information, copies of reports or indices, and other requests for assistance each cycle:

  1. 90,000 requests in Public Records;
  2. 175,000 inquiries in Information (800 line, etc.);
  3. 35,000 requests in the Press Office, and over 1,000 FOIA requests;
  4. Copies of materials and publications to 50,000 requesters;
  5. 150,000 computer indices and printouts.

E. Respond to Advisory Opinion requests and operate informational outreach programs:

  1. Respond to 100% of 50 to 60 Advisory Opinion requests per cycle within 60 and 20 day statutory deadlines; 
  2. Publish an Annual Report each year, the FEC Record monthly, and provide prior notice of filing dates to filers;
  3. Make copies of the Act (FECA) and FEC Regulations available to filers, as well as disclosure forms;
  4. Conduct five to six campaign finance workshops to educate filers.


In order to meet the outcome goal that the public is assured that the FECA is fairly and speedily enforced, the Commission will accomplish the following:

A. Make 275-300 referrals from the Reports Analysis Division for potential audit or enforcement per cycle:

  1. Refer 200 committees for potential audits under 2 U.S.C.438(b) per cycle, with 180 in second year of cycle (e.g. FY 1999 for 1998 cycle) and all audit referrals of candidate committees within the statutory deadline of six months from the general election;
  2. Refer 75 to 100 committees for potential enforcement actions under 2 U.S.C.437g per cycle.

B. Complete audits of committees referred under 2 U.S.C. 438(b), estimated 25-30 for each cycle:

  1. 17-20 unauthorized (non-candidate) committees;
  2. 8-10 authorized (candidate) committees;
  3. Also complete review of all audits for legal issues.

C. Process enforcement workload arising from complaints and the internal review and referral system for each cycle:

  1. Process 250-300 complaints plus 75-100 internal referrals during the two year period;
  2. Assuming an average total caseload of 290-300 cases in any given month, maintain an average active caseload of 40-45% of total caseload.

D. Close 450-500 cases in each election cycle, 45% with substantive Commission action. (This 45% represents cases in which the Commission has reached a substantive finding on the merits of the matter, other than dismissal, including findings of no RTB.)

E. Pursue resolution of cases through litigation and defend the FEC and FECA in suits brought by other parties to fully enforce the FECA:

  1. Initiate litigation in an estimated 20-25 offensive suits per cycle (always meeting five-year statute of limitations);
  2. Defend the FEC and FECA in 20-30 suits initiated per cycle.


In order to meet the outcome goal that the public funding programs under the FECA are fully implemented and fairly and speedily enforced, the Commission will accomplish the following:

Within two years of each presidential general election:

A. Complete the certification of payments to and audits of publicly funded candidates in presidential elections:

  1. Process monthly certification requests for federal matching funds (estimated 15-17 candidates in 2000 election);
  2. Audit primary candidates receiving federal matching funds (15-17 in the 2000 election);
  3. Audit at least four national party convention and host committees receiving federal funds for nominating conventions;
  4. Audit general election candidate committees of two major parties (and any minor parties).

Within three years of each presidential general election:

B. Complete legal review of presidential audits:

  1. Review legal issues arising from primary audits, at least four convention audits, and two or three general election audits;
  2. Resolve repayment questions for committees receiving federal funds (always meeting three year statute of limitations).

C. Initiate enforcement cases involving presidential committees referred through internal referral process or complaint.

D. Provide Congress with a report on the public funding programs.

Within four years of each presidential general election:

E. Complete initial actions on enforcement cases involving presidential committees referred through internal process or complaint.


In order to meet the outcome goal that the FEC will assist state and local elections officials in conducting federal elections, the Commission will operate the Office of Election Administration each election cycle, and accomplish the following:

A. Conduct research projects in elections administration issues and publish results:

  1. Fund research projects as appropriate, making results available in printed form (less in contracts at reduced funding levels);
  2. By 1999, make computerized results available on-line.

B. Provide informational and educational outreach to elections administration officials, and seek their input by conducting an annual advisory panel meeting:

  1. Attend state and national elections officials' conferences and meetings;
  2. Respond to 12,000 informational requests per cycle, and publish an elections administration Journal;
  3. Conduct an annual advisory panel meeting;
  4. Meet with elections officials from other countries to foster the spread of democratic, fair and well-administered elections.

C. Carry-out the obligations of the Office of Election Administration with regard to voting accessibility and NVRA ("motor voter") legislation:

  1. Review NVRA state regulations and registration forms and report to Congress on the impact of the NVRA after each election;
  2. Coordinate research projects with needs of officials to comply with NVRA.


In order to successfully meet the goals for the four core programs, the FEC will also undertake the following projects from FY 1998 through FY 2002:

  • Supplement and enhance existing FEC ADP systems connected to the mainframe databases; complete fully enhanced installation by FY 2002;
  • Implement a full-scale electronic filing system on a limited, volunteer basis during the 1998 election cycle, with all committees able to file electronically by the 2000 election cycle;
  • Absent amendment to the FECA, committees will only file electronically on a voluntary basis for the 1998, 2000 and 2002 cycles;

More details for the Electronic Filing and ADP Enhancements projects are available in the Commission’s FY 1997-2002 Computerization Strategic and Performance Plans. The timing of the completion of the two remaining computerization initiatives is dependent upon the overall level of FEC funding: reduced levels of funding delay the completion of the projects.


External factors which have the greatest potential to significantly and adversely impact on our ability to achieve our statutory mission are those that affect the general application of the FECA itself. Such factors include, but are not limited to:

  • The number of candidates who run for federal office and the amount of money involved in the political process.
  • Significant and substantive amendment to the FECA itself, which could either close present "loopholes" in the law and strengthen the FEC’s enforcement and disclosure operations, or changes loosening the regulations regarding the limits and restrictions on fundraising and reporting;
  • Definitive Supreme Court judicial review of presently contested elements of the FECA, e.g. the definition of "express advocacy," the legal determination of what activity by a group triggers registration as a committee (and thus reporting requirements and limitation provisions), and similar controversial elements of the present regulatory regime;
  • The solvency of the Presidential Election Campaign Fund and, as a consequence, the determination of presidential candidates to either opt in or out of the public funding programs;
  • Major increases or decreases in the level of funding appropriated to the FEC and the presence and nature of any restrictions on the use of those funds;
  • Significant increases or decreases in the level of competition in federal election campaigns, the volume and intensity of fundraising for federal campaigns, and the general political attitude, interest, and awareness of the public and the electorate, which can greatly influence the tone and competitiveness of elections.

All of these factors can influence the amount of money to be regulated by the FEC each election cycle, driving FEC workloads such as the number of reports filed and transactions to be processed, the volume of requests for information, data, and assistance made to the FEC, and the number of complaints filed with the Commission. Of all these factors, the status of the presidential fund and the appropriations level for the FEC are perhaps the most salient currently.

Record levels of campaign finance activity in the past three election cycles, coupled with limited budgetary resources available, have severely strained the Commission’s ability to meet mission objectives and performance goals. The status of the presidential fund may become an active factor in the 2000 election, due to declining public support of the check-off and absent any legislative fix to index income into the fund.


The FEC has a planning and budgeting system which is based on a detailed Management Information System (MIS), and is driven by program based workloads and activity data, outputs, and productivity measures. In an on-going evaluation process, the monthly MIS reports and FY based productivity measures are used to evaluate program efficiency and effectiveness. The FEC has also married the A-123 and A-127 processes, under the Federal Managers’ Financial Management and Integrity Act or FMFMIA, to ongoing program management activities, and has striven to relate the annual A-123 reports to the FEC Budget requests.

The evaluation of program resources, mainly staff resources, and the resulting program outputs and productivity measures are used in the internal planning and budget formulation processes. Commission Management Plans and Budget Requests are workload-driven, and related to resource levels and expected program activity levels.

As a personnel intensive agency, over 70% of the Commission's resources are staff costs, and the remaining 30% represents mainly rent and other direct support for that staff. Using the MIS and Summary MIS reports, both produced on a monthly basis, all workloads, program outputs, productivity, and effectiveness and efficiency are constantly being monitored, often in great detail. This is reported to the Commission in monthly Management Reports from the Staff Director. Several other tracking systems monitor the status of reports processing (filing, filming, data coding and entry, and reports review), enforcement and litigation activities, Advisory Opinions and regulatory rule making, and audit progress. The Enforcement Priority System continually adjusts active enforcement caseloads to match available resources.

The Performance Goals contained in this Strategic Plan and the FY 1999 Performance Plan are tied directly to the Commission’s workload and activity measures and the level of funding requested. The detailed level of on-going program activity monitoring and output measurement efforts will enable the Commission to determine if our performance goals are being achieved. This will provide the basis for future evaluations of our efforts.

As noted above, quantifying and measuring faith in a political process is difficult. The FEC does believe that our performance goals and the related program outputs help indicate whether we can achieve the desired outcomes of public faith in the campaign finance system and the political process. Lack of funding precludes establishment of an evaluation staff dedicated solely to perform formal program reviews and evaluations. However, the detailed MIS monitoring system, and the FEC OIG audits of Commission financial and related systems, provide an ongoing evaluation system of some detail.