Deal or No Deal?

Posted April 29, 2008 at 6:24pm

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) shipped to the White House on Tuesday a compromise plan on Federal Election Commission nominees, a deal Reid said could reconstitute the six-member panel. But the proposal will likely fail because it does not meet previous GOP demands on Republican FEC pick Hans von Spakovsky.

[IMGCAP(1)]“You are aware that Mr. von Spakovsky does not have majority support to win confirmation,” Reid wrote Tuesday in a letter to White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten. “It is my understanding that you have two additional Republican FEC candidates cleared for nomination.

“One would fill Mr. von Spakovsky’s seat should he be defeated or withdrawn, and the other would fill the vacant Republican seat,” Reid continued. “You already have the non-controversial re- nomination of sitting commissioner David Mason pending.”

Reid’s proposed deal also includes confirming a new Democratic nominee to replace former Commissioner Robert Lenhard, a labor lawyer who took his name out of the running earlier this month and went into private law practice.

Cyndi Bauerly, a lawyer for Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.), has been named frequently in recent months as a possible Democratic nominee.

Likewise, Reid mentions “two additional Republican FEC candidates cleared for nomination” as part of his proposal, but does not provide names. He does write in his letter that “one of the Republican candidates cleared for nomination has had an extensive political practice.”

Don McGahn, a National Republican Congressional Committee lawyer, frequently has been named as a possible replacement for Michael Toner, whose seat has been vacant for more than a year.

Along with the unnamed nominees, Reid also proposes that Democratic pick Ellen Weintraub and GOP nominee Mason remain on the commission. Steven Walther, a close friend of Reid, also is up for a Democratic seat on the commission.

Regardless of Reid’s offer, the White House and Senate Republicans for months have held fast on all-or-nothing demands on von Spakovsky’s nomination. The FEC has been stymied since the beginning of the year, unable to meet because of a lack of a quorum.

The White House declined to comment on Reid’s offer before press time Tuesday.

Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), expressed skepticism about Reid’s proposed compromise and blamed Democrats for the current stalemate.

“Sen. Reid’s proposal is simply another version of the status quo,” he said. “It would ensure that all three Democrat FEC selections were confirmed, while only one GOP nominee — of the Democrats’ choosing — would be seated. This would be a three-to-one partisan split on a commission that is supposed to be bipartisan.”

The Tax Man. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee asked the Internal Revenue Service on Tuesday to revoke the tax status of Freedom’s Watch, a conservative outside political group airing ads ahead of this weekend’s special election to replace retired Rep. Richard Baker (R-La.).

“The DCCC is asking the IRS to hold Freedom’s Watch accountable for its illegal election ads that are being used to mislead voters in LA-06,” DCCC Executive Director Brian Wolff said in a statement. “Freedom’s Watch is trying to avoid paying taxes by claiming to be tax exempt, while running campaign ads that benefit a Republican candidate and the [National Republican Congressional Committee]. Freedom’s Watch illegal activity is quickly adding to [Chairman] Tom Cole and the NRCC’s many problems.”

The DCCC alleges that the group is violating its tax status as a social-welfare organization under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code. House Democrats, referring to a recent IRS letter, claim the group should pay back taxes and register as a 527 for airing ads against state Rep. Don Cazayoux (R) in this weekend’s special general election.

The NRCC was unfazed by what a spokesman called its counterparts’ most recent “conspiracy theory” involving the outside group.

The DCCC “should consider trying to crack the Da Vinci Code next,” NRCC spokesman Ken Spain said in an e-mail. “Also, while they are talking to the IRS, they might consider asking how much havoc their massive tax hikes will wreak on our economy.”

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