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FEC Gridlock No Help to Obama Campaign

Saul Loeb/Getty Images
In an FEC complaint, the Obama campaign’s general counsel argues that GOP-aligned issue advocacy groups, namely American Crossroads and affiliated Crossroads GPS, violated election law by running campaign ads under the guise of a social welfare organization.

“Our demands for Obama to fix the FEC ... would require the administration to take on [Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell and the Republicans in the Senate because they would filibuster any appointee who would be halfway decent,” Holman said. “I don’t know who would win that battle.”

Confirmation complications derailed Obama’s first and only FEC nominee, labor attorney John Sullivan.

White House officials said Obama remains committed to strong campaign finance enforcement. Eric Schultz, a spokesman for the White House, told Roll Call in an email that Obama “intends to nominate well-qualified candidates,” but  he would not “speculate on future personnel decisions.”

Others were more critical of the president’s turnabout.

“It’s easy to have principles when it doesn’t cost you anything,” said Hans Von Spakovsky, a former FEC commissioner who is now a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation. “The real test of whether you stick to your principles is when to do so is going to cost you. I think the only way he would re-evaluate now is if he thought he would be at a money disadvantage.”

Though it is too late for Obama to make substantive changes to the FEC or to appoint new commissioners before the November elections, the campaign’s recent complaint could discourage some wealthy donors from giving to unrestricted groups, Sloan said.

“This is a legitimate complaint that won’t be resolved before the election. I suppose that does put people on notice,” she said. “Maybe this will intimidate people from donating because their name [might] one day be disclosed.”

Nevertheless, the complaint will likely do little to stem GOP fundraising. Groups such as Crossroads GPS have begun television ad buys worth tens of millions of dollars and they show no signs of slowing down.

The Obama campaign did not return requests for comment.

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