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April 11, 2011

FEC Commissioner Don McGahn’s Op-ed Shows a Real Talent for Fiction

By crewstaff

Federal Election Commission logoToday’s Alice Through the Looking-Glass moment comes courtesy of Don McGahn, a commissioner with the Federal Election Commission. Former Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s former campaign finance lawyer has been leading a crusade to eviscerate all our nation’s campaign finance laws. His term on the commission has long since expired, but because President Obama hasn’t gotten around to replacing him, he continues to serve. Whenever he’s finally shown the door, Mr. McGahn should consider a career as a fiction author. His op-ed in Roll Call this morning shows he has a real talent for it.

Mr. McGahn goes to great lengths to profess his infallibility in interpreting the campaign finance laws, ignoring that at least half of the commissioners – who are no less credentialed than he is – disagree with him. Further, while Mr. McGahn’s role is to enforce the law to the best of his ability, it is perfectly clear he is not even trying.

Need further proof of the commission’s failings? Flip to another page of today’s Roll Call, where campaign finance lawyers, including Marc Elias, whose former partner Bob Bauer was President Obama’s campaign finance lawyer before becoming White House Counsel, are singing the FEC’s praises. Is it surprising these lawyers find common cause with a commission that routinely sides with their clients, no matter how outrageous the violation? The world of campaign finance law experts is not big. Most federal candidates hire the same few lawyers to represent them when they run into trouble. Thanks to their frequent appearances before the commission, these lawyers develop cozy relationships with the regulators, who are appreciated all the more for refusing to enforce campaign finance laws.

While President Obama undoubtedly does not spend much time reading Roll Call, someone in the White House probably does, perhaps even providing a Cliff’s Notes summary to the president. Maybe the juxtaposition of Mr. McGahn’s op-ed and praise for the commission will persuade the president – finally – to appoint new commissioners who actually care about the law.

Of course, now that President Obama announced his reelection bid and is expected to preside over a billion dollar campaign, perhaps he likes the FEC just the way the campaign finance lawyers do: weak and ineffectual.

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