Full-strength FEC ready to go to work


A deal between Senate Majority Leader Harry Read (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has finally resulted in a full six-member contingent at the Federal Election Commission. The new panel consists of no less than five new members, who will hold their first public meeting tomorrow. The lone survivor from the previous incarnation of the FEC is Ellen L. Weintraub (D), who has been serving as Vice Chair of the three-Republican, three-Democrat board. Former Chair David M. Mason (R) was not re-nominated by President Bush.

The newcomers include Democrats Cynthia L. Bauerly and Steven T. Walther (a return engagement for the one-time recess appointee), and Republicans Caroline Hunter, Donald F. McGahn and Matthew S. Peterson. The new appointees were confirmed unanimously by the US Senate on 6/24/08.

RBR/TVBR observation: The FEC has been hamstrung during the early stages of the 2008 campaign by lack of a quorum, and fittingly enough, it has stayed that way over a political dispute over the recess appointment and re-nomination of Hans von Spakovsky, who Democrats found completely unacceptable and whom the Republicans were insisting upon. The lack of a quorum has prevented the issuance of advisory opinions when requested, as well as dealing with the refinement, administration, interpretation and enforcement of ever-changing campaign law, which is subject to amendment by both Congress and the courts.

The FEC tends to be hamstrung anyway, by design. It should come as no surprise that a large number of the more controversial issues before the FEC result in a 3-3 party-line tie vote.

Add in the fact that substantive changes to the regulations, or even the writing of regulations as directed by Congress or the courts, is subject to the same process as that used by the FCC, involving various levels of internal review, public announcement, publication in the Federal Register, public comment and reply, and open meeting consideration, and it becomes extremely difficult to get anything done while a campaign is in progress. So the rules of the road from now through November likely will be pretty much the same as they have been since the primaries began.