Federal Election Commission Stacked With Bush Cronies

Here’s a story that just about slipped through the cracks here on The Mahablog — I overlooked it until I saw this editorial in today’s New York Times

President Bush has announced four nominees for the Federal Election Commission, moving to keep the policing of campaign abuses firmly in the hands of party wheel horses. The timing of the announcement – the president waited until the Senate had gone home – is likely to allow the nominees to avoid the full hearing and confirmation process needed to evaluate them properly.

Holy Diebold!

The most objectionable nominee is Hans von Spakovsky, a former Republican county chairman in Georgia and a political appointee at the Justice Department. He is reported to have been involved in the maneuvering to overrule the career specialists who warned that the Texas gerrymandering orchestrated by Representative Tom DeLay violated minority voting rights. Senators need the opportunity to delve into that, as well as reports of Mr. von Spakovsky’s involvement in such voting rights abuses as the purging of voter rolls in Florida in the 2000 elections.

The nomination of von Spakovsky was announced a couple of weeks ago. I missed it, but John Gideon of the Brad Blog did not:

He is an attorney who is presently the head of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Voting Section. He is a member of the right-wing Federalist Society, and joined other Bush cronies in the Florida recount battle in 2000, and he is President Bush’s newest recipient of a crony-nomination.

Yeah, this is exactly the guy we need on the bleeping Federal Election Commission. Voters, we are bleeped.

In addition to nominating four new members, Bush moved up a Republican crony already on the FEC to be head of the commission — Michael Toner, a former attorney for Bush ‘s election and the Republican National Committee. A real impartial guy. Toner was named a member of the FEC by Bush via recess appointment in 2002. As head, he will replace Scott Thomas, a Democrat. The New York Times calls Thomas “the one incumbent praised for his independence by Senator John McCain, who has campaigned for a clean, hack-free Federal Election Commission.” Thomas’s term has expired.

Bush named Robert D. Lenhard to be one of the three Democrats to serve on the six-member board. Lenhard was part of a legal team that challenged the constitutionality of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. But get this, from Sourcewatch:

“As a lawyer, Lenhard wasn’t able to overturn McCain-Feingold before it took effect, but, as an FEC commissioner, he’ll be able to do the next best thing and try to gut it,” Arianna Huffington wrote December 18, 2005. “But that’s not why I’m obsessing (if I got worked up every time Bush picked a fox to guard a government henhouse, I’d never get anything done!). No, the thing that has my mental wheels in overdrive is the fact that Lenhard is the husband of Viveca Novak — the Time Magazine journalist whose loose lips may end up saving Karl Rove from joining Scooter Libby on Indictment Row.”

Cough. Small world, ain’t it? Mind you, Lenhard is one of the three Democrats on the board who are supposed to be making the board “bipartisan.”

Beside von Spakovsky and Lenhard, the other two nominees are David M. Mason and Steven T. Walther.

Mason, a Republican, has already served one term on the FEC board. He was originally appointed by President Clinton and confirmed by the Senate in 1998. Before joining the FEC Mason had been a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

News stories identify Walther as a political associate of the Senate minority leader Harry Reid.

“By endorsing them, the president has finally shown his commitment to bipartisanship in the worst of ways: by installing another undistinguished group of factotums to referee the democratic process,” says the Times.

Beside Lenhard and Walther, the other Democrat is Danny Lee McDonald, who’s been on the FEC board since 1982.

See also: Ghosts in the Voting Machine and From the New Deal to the Dirty Deal in George Bush’s America.

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