Retirements at the FEC

It’s a big week for campaign finance litigation, what with oral argument in FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life and the Washington state Supreme Court’s decision in No New Gas Tax v. San Juan County.  But we can still pause to reflect on a couple more retirements at the FEC.  General Counsel Larry Norton and his top aide, Jim Kahl, left earlier in the year.  This month, the Associate General Counsels for both Enforcement and Litigation have resigned or retired.

Rhonda Vosdingh resigned from the FEC on April 13 to spend more time with her family.  Rhonda had been Associate General Counsel for Enforcement since 2002.  Rhonda was a tireless, level-headed workhorse and deserves much of the credit for the very significant strides the FEC has made over the last 5 years in reducing the processing time on enforcement matters and eliminating the backlog of cases that used to result in dismissals of significant numbers of cases as "stale."  Of course much room remains for improvement – what can’t be "reformed?"  But by any meaningful standard the FEC’s enforcement has become considerably more effective and efficient in recent years, with no real expansion in staff, and Ms. Vosdingh played a major role in those improvements.  Her young children will enjoy seeing more of Mom, though the FEC will miss her effort and judgement.

Meanwhile, yesterday the Litigation section held a retirement party for longtime Associate General Counsel for Litigation Rick Bader (and a nice little bash it was, with great planning by Colleen Seelander and some wonderfully witty tributes from the litigation staff).  I knew Rick had been at the FEC for over 25 years, but I was not aware, until yesterday, that his name appears as attorney of record on over 200 reported campaign finance cases, including, of course, McConnell v. FEC, one of the most massive decisions in Supreme Court history.  Rick often disagreed with substantive decisions of the Commission, and on other occasions might agree with the substance but disagree with the tactical decisions to litigate certain cases or issues.  But once the Commission had made its decision, Rick put his views aside, and always took whatever hand the Commission had dealt, however good or bad it might have been, and set out to win with dogged determination and much skill.  To some this may not sound like much, but I consider this one of the highest compliments that can be paid to a career civil servant.  Civil servants are required to regularly submerge their personal beliefs to the public good – that is, the public good as determined by their poltiical masters, whether they be Scott Thomas and Danny Lee McDonald or Brad Smith and Hans von Spakovsky.  It is not an easy job to do.  But whatever the Commission might decide, Rick would battle tirelessly for that position in court.  Few people can claim to have had such an impact on the development of the law in any field as Rick has had on the law of campaign finance.   We wish Rick well in retirement.  Come out to Ohio sometime and we’ll take in a Reds game together.


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