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Rules Committee to Grill Three FEC Nominees

The Senate Rules and Administration Committee is holding a hearing today on three pending Federal Election Commission nominations that may soon reconstitute the shuttered elections regulator.

Democratic nominee Cynthia Bauerly, along with Republican picks Caroline Hunter and Don McGahn, will appear before the panel this afternoon in what is expected to be a perfunctory affair. Bauerly is a top lawyer for Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and a largely unknown figure to outside watchdog groups. A former policy director for Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Bauerly would sit on the commission until 2011.

Hunter, whose proposed nomination would expire in 2013, is a seasoned — and fully vetted — GOP insider who has worked in the current Bush White House and as a lawyer at the Republican National Committee. She sits on the Election Assistance Commission.

If any sparks arise, they would be during a potential Democratic grilling of former National Republican Congressional Committee lawyer McGahn, whose nomination was initially criticized by campaign finance reform groups and The New York Times editorial board because of his previous legal stances and close ties to GOP campaign committees.

McGahn’s term would expire next year.

Prominent Democrats have come to GOP-er McGahn’s defense in recent weeks, including recently departed FEC Chairman Robert Lenhard. And, oddly enough, Bob Bauer, Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) presidential campaign lawyer, also rode to McGahn’s rescue Tuesday, rebutting Campaign Legal Center’s Meredith McGehee’s criticism of McGahn’s one-time representation of former Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-Texas).

In an opinion piece Monday in Roll Call, McGehee asked: “Would you laugh if I said one nominee was Tom DeLay’s ethics lawyer? Don’t laugh, because it’s true.”

But Bauer reminded McGehee on Tuesday that one of her reform organization’s founding fathers, Trevor Potter — presidential candidate Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) lawyer — “was once one a partner in the political law practice of the firm that served as Newt Gingrich’s ethics counsel.”

“Surely McGehee believes in redemption,” Bauer wrote in a blog post Tuesday.

If cleared by the committee, the three nominees would be up for a full Senate vote with holdover nominee Steven Walther, a Democrat. If confirmed, the four would join Democratic-pick Ellen Weintraub on the panel.

The White House has said it would like a full vote on the slate by Memorial Day.

Meanwhile, President Bush has yet to nominate a Republican replacement for Hans von Spakovsky, a controversial former Justice Department lawyer who served as a recess appointee on the FEC but recently withdrew his candidacy for a longer appointment after criticism from Democrats and civil rights groups.

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