Senate Democrats are expected to name a top lawyer for Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) to fill a vacancy on the Federal Election Commission, a potentially safe selection that would avoid a brewing showdown with Republicans over a controversial GOP commission pick.
Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) office plans to ask the White House to nominate Cynthia Bauerly, Schumer’s legislative director, to replace Democratic-nominated commissioner Ellen Weintraub, whose term expired last spring. Weintraub has said she will continue to serve on the commission until her successor is confirmed.
“Cyndi Bauerly is one of the most capable people I’ve ever known,” Schumer said late Monday in a statement. “I’ve been blessed with a great staff for 28 years [in Congress], and she is one of the most capable who has ever worked for me.”
“I very much regret the idea of her leaving because she has done such a great job here,” he added. “My only consolation is that someone of this caliber is very much needed on the FEC.”
Bauerly declined to discuss her nomination with Roll Call, but multiple sources confirmed that she has more than half a decade’s worth of experience wading through campaign finance law from her work in Schumer’s office.
Minus a one-year stint in private practice, Bauerly has been Schumer’s go-to lawyer on election law and campaign finance matters going back to debate over the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.
Bauerly began cutting her election-law teeth seven years ago working on then Vice President Al Gore’s ill-fated presidential recount in Florida. Irwin Raij, Gore’s then-deputy general counsel and now partner at Foley & Lardner, recruited Bauerly to join the recount in Miami when she was less than three years out of law school. Raij described her as a quick study.
“She was just starting to get her hands on it,” he said.
After working as a staff lawyer on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Bauerly joined the Minneapolis-based law firm of Fredrikson & Byron in November 2004, according to an archived online biography with the firm.
Archived information gleaned from the firm’s Web site also confirms that she joined the firm’s intellectual property litigation group, specializing in court cases dealing with copyright, trademark and patent litigation.
Bauerly graduated from Concordia College in 1993 and the Indiana University School of Law in 1998.
She also clerked for a U.S. District Court judge between 1999 and 2000 and for an Indiana Supreme Court justice the year before, according to the firm’s Web site. Bauerly was admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court and District of Columbia Bars in 2001 and Indiana Bar in 1998.
Democratic election lawyer Marc Elias, who has dealt with Bauerly on legislative matters, called her “highly qualified” and applauded leadership’s pick.
“Given the breadth of Cyndi’s experience on campaign finance matters recently before the Congress, she’s well qualified to sit on the FEC,” Elias said.
Bauerly’s expected nomination comes as Senate Democrats appear less hostile to the nomination for a full term of Republican Hans von Spakovsky, a controversial former Justice Department official who became embroiled in the ongoing U.S. attorneys scandal during recent months.
Von Spakovsky, along with other agency commissioners, currently are serving White House recess appointments that expire at the end of the year. To remain on the commission, von Spakovsky — as well as his three current and two potential colleagues — must be confirmed by the full Senate.
Craig Holman, a lobbyist for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch, said that for the past decade or so, most FEC nominees tend to roughly have Bauerly’s experience. They are political insiders “who are tied in with the leadership of the Republican and Democratic parties,” he said.
Senate Republican leadership declined to discuss Bauerly’s nomination but, should the nomination prove controversial, Holman said the GOP could do little more than mutter “touché.”
“Von Spakovsky is going to provide Democrats with a pass. He has received a quiet nod of approval at this point and his confirmation is expected,” Holman said. “The mere fact that this is happening, you can expect that quiet nod of approval to be reciprocated to whomever the Democrats choose to appoint.”