Contrary to an editorial on Oct. 14, "Wanted: News Views at the FEC," the current chairman and vice chairman of the Federal Election Commission are Joan D. Aikens and Robert O. Tiernan. We regret the error.
FROM THE START, congressional leaders have regarded the Federal Election Commission as a captive province to be run by incumbents and their friends. President Carter, we're sorry to see, is taking a similar view.
Mr. Carter's first mistake on this score was agreeing last year to give a seat on the six-member panel to John W. McGarry, a counsel to the House elections subcommittee and protege of House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. At the same time, Mr. Carter refused to give the Republican congressional leadership the same say-so in filing a second FEC vacancy. After a long wrangle, with Mr. McGarry's nomination stalled, Mr. Carter - instead of starting over by making two independent selections - agreed to name a Republican who was acceptable to minority leaders Howard W. Barker and John J. Rhodes. His choice, announced this week, is Max. L. Friedersdorf, a former aide to Presidents Nixon and Ford and currently director of the Senate Republican Policy Committee.
Mr. Friedersdorf may well be fully qualified for the job. In particular, we hope that his attitude toward financial disclosure is more forthcoming and that his personal finances are less convoluted than Mr. McGarry's have turned out to be.
Still, we're not cheered by the idea of filling the FEC with more "Washington hands," especially congressionally oriented ones. Since its creation in 1974, the beleaguered election panel has had seven members. Four, including current chairman Vernon W. Thomson, have been former members of Congress. Two have come from top state-party posts. The seventh, Thomas E. Harris, who is vice chairman, was associate general counsel for the AFL-CIO.
None of those backgrounds is disqualifying in itself. The cumulative result, however, has been an agency prone to complicate an already complex law - and more attuned to Congress's sensitivities than to the financial and record-keeping problems of many campaigns. The FEC could benefit from other perspectives, including those of minor-party leaders, state and local election officials, professional auditors and non-partisan students of politics. Such appointments would help keep the FEC clearly focused on the public interest, even when that conflicts with the desires of incumbents and interest groups.