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Senate confirms Democratic nominee to FEC

Dara Lindenbaum, whose clients included Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, set to join election agency

The Senate confirmed attorney Dara Lindenbaum to the Federal Election Commission.
The Senate confirmed attorney Dara Lindenbaum to the Federal Election Commission. (Courtesy Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock law firm)

The Senate voted 54-38 Tuesday to confirm Democratic political lawyer Dara Lindenbaum, whose clients included the gubernatorial campaign of Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams, to serve on the Federal Election Commission.

An election lawyer with the firm Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock, Lindenbaum will fill the seat of Steven Walther, an independent who was picked by Democrats and had been serving on a long-expired term. The agency, which enforces federal campaign finance laws, is designed to have three Republican and three Democratic commissioners and often deadlocks 3-3 along party lines, but in recent years it had too few commissioners to conduct official business or even hold meetings.

When Lindenbaum joins the agency, five commissioners will have been confirmed since May 2020. Commissioner Ellen Weintraub has served since 2002.

“I know how important a fully functioning FEC is to federal candidates who need to avail themselves of the FEC’s guidance and advisory opinions. I also know how important the stability of the agency is to the regulated community,” said GOP Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri on the Senate floor Tuesday ahead of the vote in support of Lindenbaum’s nomination. 

“And while the commissioners to the Federal Election Commission are by design partisan, and it’s unlikely that every senator will agree with the views of all nominees, Ms. Lindenbaum has expressed a willingness to work with the other commissioners and find consensus to do the important work of the agency,” Blunt said.

Blunt, who is retiring after the current Congress, bemoaned the partisan votes for recent GOP nominees to the FEC and said the commission “doesn’t work without an equal number of Republicans and Democrats.”

Lindenbaum, during her confirmation hearing, said she would work across ideological lines in search of common ground.

“If confirmed, I intend to be a consensus builder,” Lindenbaum told the Senate Rules and Administration panel in April. “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.”

Robert Kelner, who chairs the election and political law practice at Covington & Burling, noted the lineup of recent commissioners. “The agency is gradually emerging from its long slumber,” he said on Twitter.

Blunt, the ranking Republican on Rules and Administration, said before voting in May to send the nomination to the floor that Lindenbaum had support from bipartisan election lawyers.

“I grew up with parents on both sides of the aisle,” she said in her testimony. “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’s bipartisan confirmation vote “may be a sign that she will bring greater consensus, or at least a willingness to work collegially, on the FEC, which has experienced difficulty reaching consensus on numerous issues that are important to elections in the U.S.,” said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law. He added that Blunt’s support for her nomination may have helped her secure additional GOP votes.

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 in April.

Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz questioned Lindenbaum’s work after Abrams lost the 2018 election to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. He asked her about 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 opposed her nomination. 

“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.

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