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Photo: Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call

The U.S. agency charged with administering the public financing of presidential campaigns doesn't have enough board members to distribute tens of millions of dollars collected for that purpose.

Why it matters: It's the first time since the program started in 1976 that there aren't enough commissioners to approve public funding applications.

Details: The Federal Election Commission needs a quorum of four to review and approve applications for public funding, but it currently only has three.

  • There's no indication of when President Trump will name up to three replacements. The White House declined a request for comment.
  • The FEC is encouraging candidates who seek to use public financing to apply “in the expectation that once a quorum is reestablished the requests will be considered expeditiously,” spokesperson Judith Ingram said.
  • The only Democratic primary candidate who had expressed interest in tapping public campaign funding, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, dropped out on Dec. 2.

How it works: Candidates seeking the nomination of a major political party are eligible to get up to $250 per individual contribution matched by the public funds, according to FEC rules.

  • Candidates have to raise more than $5,000 in each of at least 20 states with contributions of up to $250. That's at least 20 donors in each state.
  • Candidates who agree to take public funds must agree to limit their state-by-state spending to an amount the FEC authorizes and allow the commission to audit their books.
  • In 2016, that limit was just over $48 million for the primary election and $96 million for the general elections — a total of $144 million.
  • As a point of comparison, Hillary Clinton's campaign spent $565 million for the primary and general election, nearly four times the public funding limit.
  • Donald Trump spent $322 million, more than double the limit.

The odds: Public funding, for better or for worse, has come to be seen by many in politics as sort of a Hail Mary for struggling campaigns. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley used it in 2016 in a last-ditch effort to keep up with Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders.

  • John Edwards' 2008 campaign manager, Joe Trippi, said it was "effectively the end" of O'Malley's campaign, per BuzzFeed News. Edwards used public funds in his 2008 run.
  • "No campaign that is serious can win taking that money," Trippi said.
  • Trippi recently told Axios he still thinks that's the case.

Go deeper: FEC effectively shuts down after key resignation

Go deeper

14 mins ago - Technology

Scoop: Facebook exec warns of "more bad headlines"

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

In a post to staffers Saturday obtained by Axios, Facebook VP of global affairs Nick Clegg warned the company that worse coverage could be on the way: “We need to steel ourselves for more bad headlines in the coming days, I’m afraid.”

Catch up quick: Roughly two dozen news outlets had agreed to hold stories based on leaked materials from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen for Monday publication — but the embargo fell apart Friday night as participating newsrooms posted a batch of articles ahead of the weekend.

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

Inside Biden's Taiwan flubs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Twice this year, President Biden has blurted out commitments that the U.S. is prepared to defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion — forcing the White House to walk back his statements and leading to confusion over a high-stakes national security policy.

Why it matters: U.S. defense officials have publicly aired their concerns that China will take Taiwan by force in the next four to six years, perhaps sooner. The president's position on this question may soon have real-world, life and death consequences.