McGahn Staying Put at NRCC
Don McGahn, the lead lawyer for House Republicans' campaign arm, will not be named to fill a GOP vacancy on the Federal Election Commission; instead, he will stay with the National Republican Congressional Committee for the duration of the cycle.
A source familiar with the selection process, who spoke without attribution because of the sensitive nature of the matter, said that McGahn made it through the background check without a hitch, but there were concerns that it would be difficult to replace him quickly at the NRCC with less than a year remaining before the 2006 midterm elections. Another Republican requesting anonymity to speak candidly about a private matter said that worries regarding McGahn's past legal work for former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) might have made it difficult for him to be selected for the FEC post.
McGahn has held his NRCC job since 1999, while also maintaining a handful of private clients for a legal practice he opened following the 2004 election.
There are four openings on the six-member FEC. Brad Smith, a Republican, has already left the commission; three others are serving even though their officials terms have already expired (each plans to leave the commission for good when their successors are named).
President Bush is reportedly planning to fill the vacancies while Congress is in recess -- allowing his picks to serve until the start of the next Congress, a period of time that will cover the rewriting of a number of FEC regulations crafted in response to the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.
The White House's recess-appointment plan has provoked considerable negative reaction from editorial boards (including The Washington Post's), as well as the leading campaign finance watchdogs in Congress. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.), along with Reps. Chris Shays (R-Conn.) and Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) sent a letter to the President on Nov. 16 arguing against recess appointments to the FEC.
"In the past, recess appointments have been used as a means to place individuals on the FEC without sufficient scrutiny, leading the public and many in Congress to believe that their loyalties lie with the Congressional leaders who sponsored them," the four wrote. "Given the perpetual impotence of the FEC, it would be most unwise to maintain this approach."
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