Monday, August 22, 2005 is Misrepresenting the FEC

Here is another screed against the FEC with a great number of facts just completely wrong. James Sample, an attorney no less, needs to do a little fact-checking.

Three years ago, in response to widespread public support, Congress passed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA).

First, there was no "widespread support" for this bill. Most Americans could have cared less about this issue. In March 2002, the biggest issue on people's minds was 9/11 and national security concerns. Even in the 2000 elections, John McCain did not get a lot of traction on campaign finance reform as an issue.

Next, Sample starts off fine, but ends with a little misdirection.

Established by the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974, 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. Nominees of both major parties have often been chosen for their perceived partisan loyalties, rather 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.

I will agree that many Commissioners have been chosen for their partisan affiliation, but even those Commissioners with whom I disagree have, in my opinion, done as good a job as is possible given they are tasked with enforcing a monstrosity of a law that Congress gives them. But Comissioner Smith's advocation for the dismantling of the FEC in no way affected his ability to act as a Commissioner. Indeed in many ways, his interpretations and efforts come closest to an accurate interpretation of the law as it was written by Congress--including McCain and Co.

The FEC is a Congressional created body designed to be weak, otherwise, why wouldn't the FEC look more like the Federal Communnications Commission or the Federal Trade Commission, with a odd number of Commissioners and a permanent chairperson. The answer, because Congress, the body most regulated by the FEC, did not want the FEC to be too powerful. When commentators like Mr. Sample join the fray in a disingenuous or ill-informed matter, people end up with a skewed view of the FEC and its mission. If we wanted to true campaign finance regulation, a lot of procedural changes would be needed.

Finally, there is this little gem aimed at President Bush:

Pollyanish though it seems, a legitimate opportunity exists to facilitate a respected—and productive—FEC. To make that a reality, President Bush must choose to listen to the true, proven advocates of campaign finance reform. Recently, the principal sponsors of BCRA in the House and the Senate, from both sides of the aisle, urged President Bush to appoint commissioners “who are serious about their duties to enforce campaign finance laws.” That is the radical proposition.

First, president Bush, or even Senator Reid, need not listen to the reformers. One of the perogatives of leadership is the ability to make decisions despite the advice of so-called experts. Second, the names offered by McCain, et al, are mere suggestions. The role of the Senate is to advise and consent. They have provided advice, it doesn't mean the President has to take it. If the Senate doesn't like a nominee, finds them unqualified, then they can reject the nominee--if they dare.

The FEC has a terrible job, one that I am not sure I would wish on my worst enemy (although I would take the job if asked by any president). They must interpret a law that is far from crystalline and any decision they make interpreting the law is guaranteed to irritate someone. Perhaps Mr. Sample would like the job--then he could see how hard it is. Even though I don't like some of the decision Chairman Thomas may sometimes make, I respect the man for the effort he puts into the job--as should we all. Because once again, McCain and the reform community want to make scapegoats out of the victims they created.

Posted on OTB's Traffic Jam

No comments: