FEC `On the Roof:’ Balking Blocs

Photograph by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly via Getty Images

The Federal Election Commission chairwoman, Democrat Ellen Weintraub (L), and the vice chairman, Republican Donald McGahn (R), shown here in 2008 in different roles.

The Federal Election Commission chairwoman for 2013 will be Democrat Ellen Weintraub, and the vice chairman will be Donald McGahn, a Republican.

These are the two leaders of the two FEC blocs that have prevented the commission from taking any meaningful action for years in enforcing campaign finance laws; the FEC hasn’t even been able to muster enough votes to begin responding to the Supreme Court’s call for more disclosure in its Citizens United decision.

One notable Weintraub-McGahn confrontation came in January 2011, a year after the Supreme Court’s decision.

Weintraub pushed for the commission to begin considering a rule to provide for increased disclosure. McGahn pushed back against it, saying holding hearings on such a rule would “shift the burden to private people to know to comment and try to articulate why this is a bad idea.”

Weintraub said McGahn reminded her of Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” where Tevye objected to one of his daughters choosing her own groom. “Arranging a match for yourself?” Tevye asks. “What are you? Everything? The bridegroom, matchmaker, and guests in one? I suppose you’ll perform the ceremony, too? ”

In Weintraub’s telling, McGahn “wants to take off his commissioner hat, run around the table, sit down at the witness table and provide evidence and testify on behalf of the corporate community out there about how burdensome even proposing a regulation would be. Then he gets to run around the back of the table again and say, `Guess what, I just persuaded myself.”’

It could be an interesting 12 months.

Then again, it’s possible neither will be around that long. Both commissioners’ terms have expired, and President Barack Obama has yet to choose their successors. Proponents of overhauling campaign finance laws are pushing him to nominate individuals who will push for disclosure and more regulations.


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