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FEC Nominations: Yet Another Case of Foxes in the Henhouse PDF  | Print |  Email
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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