The Federal Election Commission, charged with policing campaign spending laws and fund raising rules, is impotent during one of the most important primary election seasons in recent history. Having only two sitting members is not enough to take any action to enforce the election laws. Critical issues needing a ruling right now are: (1) Does Sen. McCain have to abide by spending limits on his campaign? (2) How much are lobbyists supposed to disclose regarding their fund-raising activities? and (3) What rules must outside groups abide by who try to influence the outcome of the elections?

What happened? The six-member commission has been lacking a quorum since late December when three commissioners terms expired. A fourth seat on the commission is vacant. There is disagreement between Senate Democrats and the White House over a controversial nominee, Hans von Spakovsky.

Mr. von Spakovsky was nominated two years ago under a recess appointment by President Bush while Congress was out of session. President Bush renominated him and two others. He can’t be confirmed, however, because presidential candidate Barack Obama along with other Senate Democrats are objecting to policies Mr. von Spakovsky promoted while he was at the Justice department. His policies, these Democrats say, harmed minority voters.

Since 60 votes are needed in the Senate for confirmation, no one is getting confirmed. Republican senators say they won’t support Democratic nominees to the commission unless Democrats agree to put Mr. von Spakovsky back on the commission.

Is this the shape of bi-partisanship that everyone agrees is needed in the future? Oh, I see. It is bipartisanship for the future and not for the present.

This hurts Sen. McCain especially due to his campaign running low on funds. He has put in a request to the commission to withdraw from the public financing system whose rules force him to abide to strict spending limits during the nominating process in exchange for $5.8 million funds. Since becoming the presumptive Republican candidate, he has changed his mind about public financing. However, there is not enough members at the Federal Election Commission to rule on his request due to lack of quorum.

One would think the Republican Senators would try to negotiate a bit on this, but then a lot of the Republicans are not very enamored with Sen. McCain as their candidate anyway. Still one has to wonder why President Bush wouldn’t agree to nominate other Republicans to the commission. Why does it have to be Mr. von Spakovsky?

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