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Published — February 2, 2015 Updated — Today at 5:20 pm EST

Obama budget includes $5M for FEC offices

Election agency may need to relocate when building lease expires

Introduction

As far as addresses go, the Federal Election Commission’s 999 E St. NW in Washington, D.C., is a pretty cool one — attached to a Hard Rock Cafe and across the way from the “X-Files'” favorite prop building, the FBI headquarters. It conjures visions of Herman Cain and Bruce Springsteen hanging out.

But moving trucks could be in the FEC’s future: After three decades operating there, the election agency’s building lease will soon end, and President Barack Obama’s new budget proposal includes $5 million for “lease expiration and replacement lease expenses.”

It’s the only significant cash infusion for the FEC in Obama’s fiscal 2016 budget proposal, which Congress will assuredly slice up, add to or otherwise amend before returning it to him later this year for a signature.

Excluding the $5 million for lease-related expenses, Obama’s fiscal 2016 budget calls for the agency to receive about $71.1 million — up from $67.5 million during the current fiscal year.

Most of the new money is slated to fund staff salaries, although the FEC’s overall staffing level is projected to remain at fiscal 2015 levels — the equivalent of 345 full-time employees, according to the budget proposal. The FEC remains one of the federal government’s smallest agencies. In contrast, most cabinet-level agencies employ tens of thousands of people.

The FEC, tasked with administering and enforcing the nation’s election laws, earlier this decade endured several years of staffing reductions and budget cuts that, by many agency commissioners’ own estimation, harmed its operations.

In a message to supporters of his Organizing for Action nonprofit, Obama today declared that budgets are the “truest measure of our priorities.”

He added: “As Vice President Biden likes to say, ‘Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.'”

FEC officials, for their part, today confirmed that they don’t yet know whether the agency will stay put or move elsewhere come 2017. FEC commissioners could not immediately be reached for comment.

The FEC moved to its current location from 1325 K St. NW in 1985.

The agency’s hearing chamber on the 9th floor of 999 E St. NW has served as the forum for many of the nation’s most notable campaign and election debates and decisions since Ronald Reagan occupied the White House.

No small measure of political theater has played out there, too, most notably when the commission approved comedian Stephen Colbert’s request to operate a super PAC.

In a related matter, Obama’s budget proposal, like his past several budget proposals, accounts for savings of at least $430,000 from the U.S. Senate switching to electronic filing of its campaign finance reports.

This line item appears, however, to be little more than wishful political thinking: the Senate again appears poised to continue filing its official campaign finance reports on paper, despite protests from some of the body’s members.

Read more in Federal Politics

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