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"Delightfully surprising"

mccainThat’s how Public Citizen’s Craig Holman characterized the push back against President Obama’s Federal Election Commission (FEC) pick by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) in a Politico story today. “[I]t’s good to see McCain and Feingold working together again on the campaign finance front,” said Holman in the story.

Politico reports:

[Holman] and other campaign finance reformers had worked closely for years with McCain on campaign finance matters until the senator began distancing himself from them in the run-up to his presidential campaign as he courted the GOP base. It considers restrictions on political spending to be a violation of free speech.

In regards to reconfiguring the FEC, Holman, who has met with Obama’s representatives several times about campaign finance issues since the election, said, “The White House needs pushing on this. [Obama] hasn’t come out in front in the battle.”

Currently, the FEC is stuck in political gridlock – three anti-regulation Republican commissioners (of the six total) have voted as a bloc against enforcement over and over and over again, resulting in 3-3 deadlocked votes that prevent the FEC from doing anything about alleged violations. The result? Ideological groups get away with meddling with elections.

To try to break the deadlocks, Obama must replace the ringleader of the Republican caucus, Bush-appointee Don McGahn. Instead, he has chosen only to replace one Democrat with another Democrat, a move unlikely to change anything.  McCain and Feingold’s hold on Obama’s nominee, labor lawyer John Sullivan, has been calculated to force the president’s hand to replace the three Republican commissioners — all of whom are ideologically opposed to the idea of regulation.

And if Obama doesn’t shake up the FEC? Midway through, this Talking Points Memo story gives a good run down of the kinds of abuses that are likely to continue. For example:

 A case in which Wal-Mart was accused of having managers give presentations informing employees that the Employee Free Choice Act, if passed, would hurt Wal-Mart and its employees, and that the law would be passed if Democrats won Congress and the White House in 2008. As the Wall Street Journal revealed (sub req.) in August 2008, some presenters went off-script to attack EFCA and Barack Obama directly. In a report to commissioners, FEC employees said Wal-Mart later acknowledged “even more egregious” violations than those exposed by the Journal. But the commission’s Republicans voted against opening an investigation even to determine whether violations of law had occurred.

This sort of election meddling must not be allowed to continue; in this instance, Obama should listen to McCain for a “change.”