The FEC has six commissions, three from each party who are all appointed by the presidemt. When the terms of three of the six-member Commission expired on December 31, 2007, the agency lost its ability to take any formal actions concerning elections. Because the FEC requires votes of four of its six Commissioners to decide any matter, one vacancy and the expiration of the three appointees, the FEC now has only two Commissioners. They are no longer functional.
The duties of the FEC, which is an independent regulatory agency, are to disclose campaign finance information, to enforce the provisions of the law such as the limits and prohibitions on contributions, PAC’s and to oversee the public funding of Presidential elections.
So how did this happen? Well, as usual, Bush nominated, the very controversial, Hans von Spakovsky who worked at the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and was involved in overseeing the Voting Rights section. That sounds good, but this guy did everything in his power to minimize the vote of minorities and Democrats.
In Georgia, von Spakovsky supported a 2005 law, over the objection of DoJ staff attorneys, that required all voters to have a government issued ID, or pay $20 for a valid substitute at the DMV.
Fortunately the Georgia voter ID law was overturned by U.S. Appeals court which upheld an injunction barring the state of Georgia from enforcing a law requiring citizens to get government-issued photo identification in order to vote.
The injunction was issued by, U.S. District Judge Harold L. Murphy who stated:
“the law to a Jim Crow-era poll tax that required residents, most of them black, to pay back taxes before voting. He said the law appeared to violate the Constitution for that reason.”
The nomination of Hans von Spakovsky sent Senators into orbit because of his history of disenfranchising voters.
- “I am particularly concerned with his efforts to undermine voting rights,” Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said in a statement released in September after he placed a hold on von Spakovsky’s nomination. Obama and others gathered more opposition to von Spakovsky’s nomination by drawing civil rights advocates into a lobbying effort for its rejection. They attracted the involvement of a number of groups, including the NAACP and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, that typically would not be engaged in a battle over an FEC nomination.
- “Kennedy said von Spakovsky, a Justice Department lawyer who was Republican Party chairman in Fulton County, Ga., worked toward requiring Georgia voters to have a photo identification – a requirement critics said would harm black voters. Kennedy also contended that von Spakovsky was involved in a decision that rejected a recommendation of career Justice Department lawyers in a Texas redistricting case. Those lawyers had concluded that the redistricting plan violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 because it eliminated several districts where minorities had substantial voting power and illegally diluted black and Hispanic voting power”
This opposition caused GOP lead by Mitch McConnell to tell the democrats that if Hans von Spakovsky was not confirmed then the three other FEC nominees would not be confirmed.
Fed Wertheimer of Democracy 21
On December 19, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) proposed that the Senate have up-or-down majority votes on each of the four pending FEC nominees.
In so doing, Senator Reid offered Senator McConnell and the Senate Republicans the normal majority vote process for confirmations. He also showed that he had eliminated, on the Democratic side, the holds put on Von Spakovsky’s nomination, plus, any demands for 60 votes to confirm him.
But a majority up-or-down vote on Von Spakovsky was not enough for Senator McConnell. Apparently concerned that a majority of the Senate was not prepared to vote for Von Spakovsky, McConnell rejected the vote on Von Spakovsky and blocked the Senate from voting on the other three FEC nominees as well.
As Senator Reid stated on the Senate floor on December 19, ”facing possible defeat for their own nominee, the Republicans would prefer to hold the remaining 3 unobjectionable nominees hostage and render the FEC unable to function in the next election.”
Senator McConnell’s position is that all four nominees must be confirmed together or else none will be confirmed.
”In rejecting a straight up-or-down vote on FEC nominee von Spakovsky, Senator McConnell is holding the other three FEC nominees and the country hostage at the direct expense of the integrity of our political system,” Wertheimer stated.
”Senator McConnell wants Von Spakovsky carried to the FEC on the backs of the other three nominees, without having to bother with a Senate vote that Von Spakovsky might lose,” Wertheimer said.
”This effort by Senator McConnell is anti-democratic, political blackmail and must be rejected,” Wertheimer said.
So there you have it, the GOP will again try to screw what little oversight we have left in this sad democracy. Now here’s a scary thought if von Spakovsky was confirmed by the Senate, he could influence election law in this country for the next three election cycles. That would mean no oversight on limits or prohibitions on contributions, violation of election laws, no oversight of PAC’s and problems with public finance.