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All in all, the elections seem to have gone smoothly with little disturbances


We just heard Doug Jones talk about the money expected to flood into a possible runoff in the Georgia Senate race. That's something Trevor Potter thinks about a lot. He is a Republican former chair of the Federal Election Commission. He's also the founder and president of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. Thanks so much for being with us.

TREVOR POTTER: Thanks. Good morning.

MARTIN: I'm going to talk to you about the money in a second. But let's just talk about the actual voting. Elections seemed to have gone pretty smoothly this midterms. Was there anything that gave you pause?

POTTER: Well, and that was given - all the concerns about potential demonstrations or violence at the polls and the hyper-attention to how everything would be conducted. That was a very happy outcome yesterday. There were some isolated incidents, as there always are, of, you know, machines not doing what they're supposed to because of software questions that can be corrected, running out of paper ballots, things like that. But in a country with almost a million election workers and the tens of thousands of polling places we have, it appears to have been a pretty smooth election. Although, of course, we still have the counting process ahead of us in many states.

MARTIN: Let's talk about the money, so much money. I mean, more than $9 billion is expected to have been spent overall in these midterms. In Pennsylvania, TV ads topped 241 million. In Georgia, TV ads, $258 million. Given all that, have you seen any campaign finance irregularities in this election season?

POTTER: Well, the biggest one just staring us in the face that no one talks about is that the McCain-Feingold reform law of 20 years ago was supposed to prevent members of Congress from raising large sums of unregulated money, of unlimited money. And yet, we see super PACs, political groups associated with both leaders of both parties, out there raising literally hundreds of millions of dollars for groups that the press always refers to as the McConnell super PAC or the Schumer PAC...

MARTIN: We just have...

POTTER: ...And spending it in these races.

MARTIN: We just have a few seconds. How do you change that? How do you fix things before the presidential election?

POTTER: Well, we need to continue to strengthen the Federal Election Commission. It needs to enforce the law. Groups like mine, the Campaign Legal Center, sue them regularly when they're not enforcing the law because disclosure is an important part of this.


POTTER: And limits on what members of Congress do to raise this outside money is important. Plus, we saw just waves of secret money spent in these elections...


POTTER: ...By groups that don't report their donors at all.

MARTIN: An important thing to follow-up on. We appreciate your time. Former FEC chairman Trevor Potter. Thank you.

POTTER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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