FEC fighting

Wasting little time, after Hans von Spakovsky withdrew his nomination to the FEC, the Senate Rules Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow on the nominations of Cynthia Bauerly, Caroline Hunger, and Donald McGahn.

Predictably, so-called "reform" organizations have already set their sights on the new Republican nominee, Don McGahn, while cooler heads offer a more reasoned consideration.

But in a Roll Call op-ed ($), the Campaign Legal Center, seized on the latest developments to argue for a political speech czar.

In sum, CLC wants a new agency that "would consist of a chairman and two other members appointed by the president from different parties. The chairman, serving a 10-year term, would have broad powers to manage the agency. This structure," claims CLC, "will help avoid the deadlocks that have plagued the FEC and prevented proper enforcement, resulting in travesties such as the soft-money abuses by the presidential candidates and party committees in the 1996 elections and allowing the problems posed by 527s to explode. The new agency could impose civil monetary penalties or issue cease-and-desist orders in the event of violations, and enforcement proceedings would be conducted before impartial administrative law judges."

Leaving aside CLC’s gross mistatements of what the law is and therefore what is "proper enforcement," we trust that the inanity of such a proposal is obvious. If anything, the FEC imbroglio underscores the importance of having a balanced Commission that requires two-thirds and bipartisan support to issue any fine, new rule, advisory opinion, etc., precisely because there are these disagreements over what is "proper enforcement."

Undoubtedly, the real aim is to put a speech czar in place that exactly mirrors the views of the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 – thus effectively allowing the campaign finance and political speech ideals of the pro-regulatory community to completely dominate the regulatory body. Such an outcome would be dangerous and unwise.

Moreover, if confirming three nominees from each party has proved this difficult, one can only imagine the virtual impossibility of confirming a speech czar with a ten year term. Simply put, the FEC stalemate makes one thing clear: a reorganized FEC headed by a speech czar is a bad, bad idea.

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.