John McCain's FEC Problem

There is an interesting little drama unfolding involving the Bush Administration, Congress, and the Federal Election Commission that may have a significant impact on the McCain campaign and its ability to receive federal funds for the election.

The FEC is the administrative body charged with overseeing the nation's federal election laws.  It is run by a bipartisan commission with six members.  No more than three members of the FEC can belong to one party.

At the moment only two of those six seats are presently filled because of a battle over Bush nominee, Hans von Spakovsky.  Mr. von Spakovsky was a Justice Department official who was engaged in voter suppression efforts for the Republican Party -- a rather interesting qualification for an FEC member.  He served on the Commission as a recess appointment along with two Democratic appointees, former Chairman Robert Lenhard and member Steven Walther.  The Senate has remained continuously in session since the end of 2007 in order to prevent Bush from making further recess appointments to the FEC.  The Senate Democrats are insisting that von Spakovsky face an individual up or down vote rather than be paired with a Democratic nominee. The Bush Administration insists that it will not withdraw von Spakovsky's nomination.

As a result, the Commission lacks a quorum, rendering it unable to rule on whether McCain could withdraw from public financing and, more importantly, a quorumless FEC may be unable to authorize the release of $84 million in public funds now that McCain appears to have opted back into public financing.

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