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The longest-serving commissioner is Ellen Weintraub (D), whose term expired almost four years ago. The only commissioner who will be serving an unexpired term at the end of the month is Republican Caroline C. Hunter, whom Bush nominated in 2008, for a term that expires in April 2013.
Further complicating the confirmation process is a large list of pending issues before the FEC that will affect Obama’s own re-election campaign.
One of the biggest issues is how the FEC will write new rules in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which would set boundaries for how hundreds of millions of dollars can be spent by third parties in the presidential election and Congressional campaigns. The issue was so important to Obama that he admonished the Supreme Court a few days after its decision in the case during his 2010 State of the Union address.
The commission has also received a complaint against Obama’s 2008 campaign and is conducting an audit of the campaign of Obama’s 2008 opponent, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
It may be difficult for Obama to appoint new commissioners who would be responsible for ruling on issues closely tied to his own political fortunes.
Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, said campaign finance reform advocates are going to renew efforts to push Obama to nominate a fresh group of commissioners during the upcoming weeks.
However, opponents of campaign finance reform such as Sean Parnell, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, say that even if Republicans and Democrats in the Senate agree and confirm new appointees, “it won’t change anything.”
Because Democrats and Republicans are likely to nominate only candidates with ideologies similar to the current commissioners, many FEC issues will continue to end in deadlocks.
“Frankly, this is a good thing for [reform advocates] to be focused on, from my standpoint, because it keeps them out of my hair on substantive things,” Parnell said. “It’s chasing the newest, shiny thing that the campaign finance reform community has set their eyes on: new commissioners. OK. Whatever.”