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Tag Archive: Federal Election Commission

FEC to Exist; Von Spakovsky Pulls Name

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As Ellen wrote previously here, former Bush administration Justice Department official Hans Von Spakovsky's nomination to the Federal Election Commission was highly controversial due to concerns about stands he took on voting rights while in the Justice Department. These concerns led some Democrats to block his nomination. The President and congressional Republicans refused to hold a vote on any other commissioners without support for Von Spakosky, effectively freezing the Commission. The Commission is currently short on commissioners and is unable to issue rulings on a variety of issues including the filing of disclosure reports for bundled contributions from lobbyists. Moments ago, Von Spakovsky pulled his name from nomination all but clearing the way to a fully operational Federal Election Commission. His letter to President Bush is below the fold:

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Good bye Chairman Mason

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We've written fairly often about unbelievable situation over the Federal Election Commission. Always regarded as a toothless watchdog even in the best of days, since there's been a partisan stalemate over new appointments, it's been totally neutered. 

Now, Paul Kiel reports that the Bush Administration has offered a so-called compromise. The most controverisal nominee -- Spakovsky --  remains a nominee, and an administration spokesperson told the The New York Times that they would accept a separate vote on him. In the meantime, the administration has submitted a new nominee to replace FEC Chair David Mason, one of the two setting commissioners.

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Comments on Bundling Disclosure Now at the FEC

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Among the potentially meaningful and important changes to the law in the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act is a provision that requires candidates for federal office to report the bundled contributions they receive from lobbyists. Bundled contributions are among the most insidious sources of campaign money because they give a single donor the opportunity to get credit for raising contributions that are often hundreds of times greater than the legal limits applied to individuals. The massive contributions no doubt result in greater access to elected officials. At Sunlight, we believe bundled contributions from any party-CEOs, non-lobbyist lawyers and law firms-should be publicly disclosed. But, the new law limits such disclosure to registered lobbyists, which at least begins to get to the heart of the problem.

The key to this well-intended provision is to ensure that when it is applied, it is not so full of loopholes that any lobbyist worth her $500 an hour fee finds a way to avoid reporting the bundled contributions she forwards to candidates. The Federal Election Commission has the responsibility of crafting regulations that carry out the intent of the new law. The FEC asked for public comment on its proposed rules, and made those comments available yesterday. The comments came from three Members of Congress, groups that champion ethics reform, and others who, for reasons of their own (or their clients) seem to want to keep bundled contributions hidden in the shadows.

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Even the FEC Deserves Better

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It looks like a leading champion of "voter integrity" (read "voter suppression") and the Bush Administration's chief operative on voting rights, Hans von Spakovsky, will survive the Senate confirmation process, and will be confirmed as an FEC Commissioner. The Senate Rules Committee was considering four appointments, three noncontroversial nominees as well as the highly problematic Spakovsky. The fight over Spakovsky's nomination bottled up the process for 18 months, with Sen. Mitch McConnell blocking a vote (he certainly makes a habit of that!) on the other three FEC nominees until von Spakovsky was considered as well. Spakovsky would likely survive a vote on the four collectively, but his chances to prevail on speparate votes is not good. It appears McConnell has prevailed. On Wednesday, the Rules Committee advanced the four nominations to the Senate floor for a vote without the committee's approval or disapproval. Rules Committee Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein said it was "doubtful" there'd be a chance that the votes would be taken separately.

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