Bauerly Vacancy May Not be Harbinger of Things to Come

Cynthia Bauerly, one of the three Democrats on the Federal Election Commission, has decided to vacate her seat, and there’s some debate as to what this means for a Commission designed to be bi-partisan and, therefore, deadlock frequently. The Independent Voter Network wonders thus:

Aside from a Supreme Court nomination, FEC appointments can be some of the most important choices President Obama makes before leaving office in 2016. The 2014 mid-term elections are closer than many realize and money has already started pouring into key congressional campaigns. The last four years of inaction from the FEC has allowed for foreign spending in campaigns through domestic subsidiaries, untraceable dark money to emerge through ‘social welfare’ non-profits and numerous investigations left unopened, leaving apparently-illegal campaign donations unchecked. 

Leaving aside the very questionable assertions regarding “dark money” (a term we find tedious here at CCP) and unchecked campaign donations, it is interesting to guess if Obama might appoint someone or leave the seat vacant. While there is much hemming and hawing from some of the reform-minded, CCP Founder Brad Smith attempted to put the fears to rest in a piece win US News & World Report:

I think the White House will probably at least try to fill out that seat, it’s conceivable that they could do a big grab deal where they would replace all six commissioners at one time,” says Brad Smith, a former FEC commissioner and the chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics.

Until that happens, Smith says the commission will operate normally despite its open seat, because any action requires four commissioner votes.

“The biggest thing it does is make it a little harder to get four votes,” Smith says. “But Bauerly was rarely the fourth vote — it was rarely her and the three Republicans.”

Though Smith says the commission is “a bit more polarized than they have been in the past,” he says new nominations won’t change much, and that the commission doesn’t need fixing. 

So relax everyone. Things may not change much in terms of how the FEC operates. Might be better to start looking at another organization delving into these issues for a sign of things to come…

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