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FEC Commissioner Joining Law Firm

Michael Toner, a Republican member of the Federal Election Commission, announced Wednesday that he will be leaving the agency within weeks to set up a private election law practice in Washington, D.C.

Toner, who said in early December that he expected to bow out sometime this winter — just months before his six-year term expires — will become a partner with the Bryan Cave law firm and advise its lobbying shop, Bryan Cave Strategies. Since his late 2006 announcement, rumors have circulated that Toner might return to top-flight presidential campaign work or land at a local law firm — both familiar terrains for 2006’s FEC chairman.

After completing law school in 1992, Toner joined the election law firm Wiley Rein, practicing under Jan Baran, who still heads up the firm’s practice. Four years later, Toner became a campaign lawyer with the Dole-Kemp presidential campaign before enlisting as a top lawyer with the Republican National Committee.

Toner then moved to Austin, Texas, in 1999 to begin work for the campaign of then-Gov. George W. Bush’s (R) presidential run. After Bush won, Toner was tapped to serve on the Bush-Cheney 2000 transition team before returning to the RNC.

Bush announced his intention to nominate Toner for a vacant commission spot in November 2001 but did not formally inform the Senate until about four months later. A recess appointment in March 2002, Toner’s FEC term officially in one month.

In addition to the lobbying shop, Toner will set up the firm’s election law practice, through which he hopes to represent a wide range of clients.

“My goal is to establish one of the best election law practices in the country,” Toner said in a statement released by the firm Wednesday. “The upcoming election cycle is going to involve many of the important issues that the FEC has dealt with in recent years, so I look forward to helping corporations, trade associations, candidates and individuals understand and comply with the election laws.”

The White House declined to comment on whom it will nominate to replace Toner at the FEC.

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