If confirmed, Sullivan would have opportunity to improve FEC

If confirmed as a member of the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), John Sullivan has an opportunity to improve the performance of that failing agency. In his career, Mr. Sullivan has been a strong advocate for election protection and demonstrated support for the recently introduced Fair Elections Now Act, which would bring genuine reform to the broken campaign finance system in this country.

However, in his role as a labor union attorney, Mr. Sullivan argued that the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act’s disclosure requirement for electioneering communications should no longer be enforced by the FEC following the Supreme Court’s decision in Wisconsin Right to Life II. Fortunately, the FEC did not embrace that position. While it is normal for attorneys to vigorously argue the positions of their clients, as a commissioner it is vital Mr. Sullivan enforce campaign finance laws as intended by Congress and interpreted by the courts.

It is our hope that Mr. Sullivan will rise to the challenge, put law over politics, and help make the FEC a credible and effective enforcement agency. The FEC has long been captive to the party leadership, which has traditionally put forth names of potential commissioners based largely on their party loyalty. This helps explain why the FEC is consistently unable to serve as a credible deterrent to illegal campaign activities during national elections. In fact, for much of the 2008 elections, the most expensive in history, the agency was inoperative because of political standoff in the U.S. Senate over potential nominees.

Mr. Sullivan’s commitment to increasing civic participation can be put to good use at the FEC. Ultimately, however, the FEC must be replaced. Common Cause has called for the creation of an independent Federal Election Administration, as outlined in legislation previously introduced by Senator John McCain and former Rep. Marty Meehan.