Bush Nominates 3 to a Crippled FEC

By Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 7, 2008

President Bush sent three new nominees to the Senate yesterday for confirmation to the Federal Election Commission, but he refused to yield to Democratic objections on another nominee that have left the agency at a standstill.

With only two of the commission's six members still serving, the FEC has been unable to issue key rulings or initiate investigations into alleged political wrongdoing. Democrats have refused to confirm any new members because of Bush's nomination of former Justice Department lawyer Hans von Spakovsky, whom Democrats accuse of politically enforcing voting rights laws.

Republicans hailed the new slate of nominees as a chance to break the gridlock.

"This compromise is a blueprint for a fully functioning, bipartisan FEC -- a goal we all share -- and an end to the bottleneck created by the Democrats' opposition to one well-qualified nominee," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

But Democrats continued to oppose von Spakovsky and objected to the replacement of David M. Mason, one of two commissioners still serving on the six-member body. Mason earlier this year questioned the legality of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) opting out of public financing.

"By abandoning Mr. Mason and instead sticking by Mr. von Spakovsky, the White House has abandoned experience and independence for partisan loyalty," said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.).

The new nominees include Cynthia L. Bauerly, counsel for Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee; Caroline C. Hunter, the Republican vice chairman of the Election Assistance Commission; and Donald F. McGahn II, counsel for the National Republican Congressional Committee. McGahn was nominated to replace Mason.

McConnell has previously demanded that all nominees be considered in a package, trying to ensure that von Spakovsky is not rejected individually and the other nominees confirmed. Reid has insisted on individual votes on each nominee.

The standoff resulted in four of the six commission slots expiring on Dec. 31, effectively shuttering the agency so far this year.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company