FEC Nominations: Yet Another Case of Foxes in the Henhouse
By Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA
December 18, 2005
President Bush's recent nominations to the Federal Election Commission have
been described by the Washington Post as "controversial". Following tradition, Bush named equal numbers from each party in nominating
three new Commissioners, Democrats Robert Lenhard and Steven Walther and one
Republican, Hans von Spakovsky and recommending a second six year term for one
current Commissioner, Republican David Mason.
Most of the attention
has focused on Republican Hans von Spakovsky, a lawyer in the Department
of Justice Voting Section. Von Spakovsky has supported state programs to require
voters to have photo identification and was one of the two Department of Justice
lawyers who overruled expert recommendations that the Department file a formal
objection to the 2002 Texas redistricting plan under Section 5 of the Voting
Rights Act. The Washington Post article quoted Senator Ted Kennedy commenting
that von Spakovsky "may be at the heart of the political interference that
is undermining the [Justice] Department's enforcement of federal civil laws."
Democrat Lenhard, is no less controversial than the Republican von
Spakovsky. Lenhard, who met with strident oppostion when his name was
circulated as a possible FEC nominee in 2003, worked as counsel with
one of the many labor organizations that unsuccessfully challenged the
constitutionality of McCain-Feingold in the courts. While the legal
challenge was unsuccessful, as an FEC Commissioner would be in a
position to eviscerate the campaign finance provisions from within the
agency tasked to enforce them. Sen. John McCain, one of the authors of
the campaign finance law bitterly opposed Lenhard's previous nomination
and described Lenhard as “someone who is not going to enforce the law". Adding to the controversy swirling around Lenhard
is the fact that he is the husband of Viveca Novak, whose testimony now provides
the foundation for Karl Rove's defense in the CIA leak case.
Undermining campaign finance laws is hardly a goal exclusive to either
party. Lenhard was recommended for appointment by Senate Minority
Leader Harry Reid, (D-NV) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi
(D-CA). Both Reid and Pelosi supported McCain-Feingold, but now they are supporting
a nominee who has publically fought to weaken that same legislation.
Established by the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, the Federal
Election Commission’s (FEC) six commissioners are appointed by the
president and confirmed by the Senate, with no more than three members
to be affiliated with one political party. Typically nominees have
been chosen more for their partisan loyalties than for their ability
and inclination to enforce the laws passed by Congress. Indeed, one
outgoing GOP commissioner, Bradley Smith, routinely advocated the
abolition of the very commission of which he was a member, and the
repeal of the laws the taxpayers were paying him to administer.
It is regrettable and inappropriate for the president, in this case
with the support of opposition members in Congress, to appoint
commissioners who has demonstrated a determination to undermine the
effectiveness of the very laws they are being appointed to enforce. Yet
that is exactly what is happening.
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