President Obama recently announced the nomination of Democrat Ann Ravel and a Republican Lee Goodman to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
Ravel is currently the Chairwoman of the California's watchdog agency, the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). She previously served as deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Division of the Department of Justice and was the County Counsel for Santa Clara County, in California.
Goodman is an attorney at the LeClair Ryan law firm who served as an adviser for Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign and who has argued for the overturning of campaign finance laws.
Many of you may be asking what the FEC does. Great question. I have a short answer for you: virtually nothing. The FEC is an independent regulatory agency charged with administering and enforcing federal campaign finance laws. Small problem, the FEC doesn't do that.
In the 1970s, in the wake of the Watergate scandals that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, Congress enacted the nation's first comprehensive campaign finance framework, the Federal Election Campaign Act. Congress created the FEC to administer and enforce the provisions of the Act. Essentially the FEC should, among other things, work on issues related to campaign disclosure, restrictions on campaign contributions, and public financing of Presidential elections. These issues are vitally important to the integrity of our electoral and political processes.
One of the problems with the FEC is that it is set up to allow for partisan deadlock. The FEC is comprised of six members, there can be no more than three members of the same political party, and four votes are required for the agency to take any action.
Another problem is that the five current members of the FEC are all serving expired terms. These "holdovers" include three Republicans and two Democrats.
Ravel would replace Democrat Cynthia Bauerly, who resigned from the commission in February. Goodman would replace Republican Don McGahn. This means the partisan makeup of the FEC would remain divided.
In her role as Chairwoman of California's version of the FEC, Ravel has been a champion of more robust disclosure and transparency laws. She has worked tirelessly to streamline and simplify a daunting array of complex and contradictory regulations. She had also shown endless creativity when it comes to working on ways to increase civic engagement. She is exactly who we need on the FEC.
Goodman, on the other hand, has worked against the imposition of campaign finance laws. He argued to overturn one of the nation's oldest campaign finance laws, the ban on the ability of corporations to give contributions directly to candidates. He appears to have espoused a consistent position against restrictions on the use of money in politics.
Since taking office Obama has nominated only one commissioner. That nomination stalled and the nominee eventually withdrew his name from consideration. Let us ensure that history does not repeat itself.
The nation's campaign finance laws are in dire need of attention. Thanks in part to recent Supreme Court decisions and Congress' inaction now, more than ever, we need a functioning regulatory agency, not what we have now. Senate confirmation of both nominees would be a significant step toward achieving that goal.