For FEC, It's Back to Full Strength
By Matthew Mosk
Attention presidential candidates (and independent political groups hoping to make a splash in the 2008 campaigns): The referees are back on the field.
This morning, a full six members of the Federal Election Commission took their seats and announced they were back after a strange, seven-month hiatus. In their first official action, the commission elected a new chairman, Donald McGahn, who previously served as the lead lawyer for the House Republicans' campaign committee and handled legal work for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).
The return of the FEC comes after the Senate ended a deadlock over one of President Bush's appointees (the controversial commissioner, Hans Von Spakovsky, removed his name from consideration). During the tussle over Von Spakovsky, the FEC had only two commissioners and was rendered unable to take official action.
"It's been an odd, disconcerting and unusual time in the life of the agency," said Commissioner Ellen L. Weintraub, who was one of the two remaining members during the first half of this year. Weintraub noted that in the absence of the commissioners, "the lights were not out," and the agency's staff and its lawyers were busy keeping the nation's election system running. She told the new members that more complaints have been filed with the agency during the first half of 2008 than during the comparable period in 2004. Those complaints now await the commission's review.
"There's a very large stack of paper waiting on everybody's desk right now," Weintraub said.
After taking the gavel, McGahn made clear the FEC will not be on the sidelines any longer. "We don't have a calendar yet," he said, "but be assured, it's going to be brisk and ambitious."
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