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BYU grad’s resignation leaves FEC shorthanded

A BYU graduate who has served on the Federal Election Commission for more than a decade announced his resignation Monday, leaving the panel without enough members to make decisions.
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SALT LAKE CITY — A BYU graduate who has served on the Federal Election Commission for more than a decade announced his resignation Monday, leaving the panel without enough members to make decisions.

Matthew S. Petersen, the commission’s vice chairman, will step down at the end of the month.

“The work of a commissioner is challenging because it involves taking actions that impact the free speech rights of the American people,” he said in a letter to the White House, posted on the FEC website. “For this reason, I take satisfaction in having fulfilled my obligation to safeguard First Amendment interests while faithfully administering and enforcing the federal campaign finance laws.”

Petersen joined the FEC in 2008 and served as its chairman in 2010 and 2016. He worked as the Republican chief counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration before his appointment to the commission. He earned a degree in philosophy from BYU in 1996 and a law degree from the University of Virginia in 1999.

His tenure on the FEC has coincided with several court cases that significantly changed campaign finance law, including the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case.

As a result, he played a large role in shaping the legal framework governing super PACs and corporate and union political speech. He also helped draft new procedures affording enhanced rights and protections for individuals and organizations involved in FEC enforcement matters, audits and advisory opinion requests.

Petersen’s departure leaves the FEC with three commissioners: Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat; Caroline Hunter, a Republican; and Steven Walther, an independent. President Donald Trump nominated Republican attorney Trey Trainor in 2017 to fill an opening, but the Senate has yet to vote on his nomination.

The commission requires four members to make decisions. FEC guidelines also say that no more than three commissioners can be of the same political party.

Petersen’s fellow commissioners say he brought collegiality and a steady, even-handed and positive approach to FEC deliberations as well as a sense of humor.

Petersen also expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to serve and for those he worked with on the commission.

Correction: A previous version said Matthew Petersen graduated from BYU in 1966. He graduated in 1996.