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Panel sends FEC nominee Dara Lindenbaum to Senate floor

Democratic attorney says she'll work to build consensus

Attorney Dara Lindenbaum's nomination to the Federal Election Commission was sent to the Senate floor Tuesday by the Rules Committee.
Attorney Dara Lindenbaum's nomination to the Federal Election Commission was sent to the Senate floor Tuesday by the Rules Committee. (Courtesy Sandler Reiff Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock law firm)

The Senate Rules and Administration panel approved the nomination of Dara Lindenbaum, a lawyer whose clients included the gubernatorial campaign of Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams, to the Federal Election Commission.

The Tuesday voice vote was bipartisan, with ranking Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri among those in his party to support her. Three Republicans said they wanted “no” votes recorded against Lindenbaum’s nomination: Sens. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi and Deb Fischer of Nebraska. Tennessee GOP Sen. Bill Hagerty also voted “no” by proxy.

Lindenbaum, an election lawyer with the firm Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock, would fill the seat of Steven Walther, an independent who was picked by Democrats. The agency is designed to have three Republican and three Democratic commissioners.

Blunt noted, just before the brief vote, that the committee had received a letter from 30 bipartisan political law practitioners supporting her nomination and said that he looked “forward to supporting her nomination today.”

Blunt, who is not running for reelection, had said during her confirmation hearing in April that Lindenbaum had “expressed a willingness to work with other commissioners and to find consensus” at the often deadlocked FEC.

“I grew up with parents on both sides of the aisle,” she said in her testimony last month. “While that meant we had some spirited debates around the dinner table, the one thing they have always agreed on is the importance of voting. As a child, I got to take two trips to the polls on Election Days: one with mom and one with dad. My parents instilled in me and my brother this core value of active participation in our democracy, and I have dedicated my career to the furtherance of this country’s promise of civic engagement.”

Lindenbaum said she would recuse herself for two years from cases involving her own clients or those of her firm. Her client roster includes Abrams, who is running for governor this year and ran in 2018, as well as other federal, state and local candidates and political committees, according to her firm’s biography.

Her work for Abrams raised some controversy during the confirmation hearing last month.

Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz questioned Lindenbaum’s work after Abrams lost the 2018 election to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. He asked a complaint she had signed alleging, among other things, that voting machines in the state had switched votes from Abrams to Kemp. Lindenbaum said that complaint was not filed on behalf of Abrams’ campaign but was instead from a collection of groups, including churches.

Lindenbaum told Cruz that those machines were subsequently replaced before the 2020 elections but that she was limited in what she could say because that case was still ongoing.

Cruz’s office said he, too, asked for a recorded “no” vote on the nominee, though that did not happen during the webcast portion of the markup Tuesday.

“Joe Biden’s nominee to the Federal Election Commission, Dara Lindenbaum, is guilty of the very thing Democrats claim they oppose: fueling doubt in the integrity of our elections,” Cruz said in a statement emailed from his office. “Not only has Lindenbaum undermined confidence in our electoral system, she is in the tank for left-wing Democrats like Stacey Abrams, still litigating the Georgia gubernatorial results 4 years later and claiming that voting machines ‘switched’ votes.”

Common ground

Blunt said during the April hearing that the FEC had accumulated a long backlog of cases, especially when it was short of its full slate of six members. As a former Missouri secretary of state and as a longtime federal candidate, Blunt said it was important to have a fully functioning FEC that could provide candidates with advisory opinions.

“I also know it’s important to the stability of the agency and the regulated community to have a full set of commissioners,” Blunt said.

Even with a full slate, the agency often deadlocks 3-3 along party lines.

“If confirmed, I intend to be a consensus builder,” Lindenbaum told the committee. “Both as a lawyer as well as a mother to 3-year-old twins, for whom I consistently adjudicate disputes, I know that consensus will not come easily, but we must make every effort we can.”

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