White House decision to remove FEC Chairman Mason smacks of retribution

In a letter sent Tuesday to all Members of the US Senate, Common Cause criticized the White House for refusing to re-nominate a Federal Election Commission member in apparent retribution for his letter to fellow Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain about a controversial loan agreement. In addition, Common Cause urged a vote against the confirmation of Hans von Spakovsky and Donald McGhan for seats on the FEC.

In his letter to McCain in February, FEC Chairman David Mason pointed to a loan agreement Senator McCain signed that might automatically enter him into a binding agreement for matching funds under the presidential public finance system. If the FEC were to determine that Senator McCain can not withdraw from the public finance system, he would be in violation of the law’s spending limits, Common Cause President Bob Edgar said in the letter.

President Bush’s dismissal of Mr. Mason “is reminiscent in spirit at least of President Nixon’s decision to remove Archibald Cox as independent special prosecutor after his decision to subpoena the President during the Watergate investigation,” Edgar said, noting that Cox went on to become chairman emeritus of Common Cause. “Then, the White House abused its power to fire a law enforcement official who valued the rule of law more than party loyalty. Now, the White House appears to be abusing politics to fire a regulator for the sake of party loyalty.”

Common Cause has opposed von Spakovsky since he was first nominated for a seat on the FEC last year because of his previous work at the Justice Department Voting Rights Division, where he distinguished himself as a highly partisan advocate of rolling back voting rights laws.

Don McGhan has also shown a contempt for the campaign finance laws he would be asked to enforce as an FEC commissioner in his previous work.

McGhan served as counsel to Rep. Tom Delay (R-TX) on matters of campaign finance and ethics, and Delay was indicted on campaign finance violations by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Texas and was admonished repeatedly by the House Committee of Official Standards of Conduct. “It would be difficult to find a more ill-suited candidate than Mr. McGhan,” Edgar in the letter.

In the letter sent Wednesday, Edgar also characterized the months-long standoff over FEC nominations as another example of how the current model for campaign finance enforcement does not work.

“In general, the FEC’s timely enforcement of campaign finance laws during election years is an unqualified failure. Unless the Senate confirms commissioners who value the role of the FEC, then this standoff is just more proof of the need for fundamental reforms in the way we enforce our campaign finance laws,” wrote Edgar.

Click here to read the letter.