The payments did not seem to trouble Bradley Smith, a Republican who served as an FEC commissioner from 2000 to 2005. “There’s no problem, so to speak, doing business with yourself, as long as you’re not giving yourself some kind of super-favorable deal that the public can’t get,” he said.
Even if a campaign were breaking rules by paying exorbitant rates, there’s not a lot anyone could do about it right now. The FEC, which examines such things, cannot take any official commission action unless at least four of its six commissioners vote to do so. Since Trump took office, three of the FEC’s commissioners have left their posts. Their seats—which demand presidential appointments and Senate confirmations—have yet to be filled.
“They can’t even meet without four members, because four is a quorum,” said Ann Ravel, a Democrat who left her post as a commissioner in March 2017. “They cannot ask the general counsel’s office to investigate anything. So if a complaint comes in, it will just sit there.”