Senate confirms three to FEC, restoring a full slate

Shana M. Broussard will serve as the agency’s first Black commissioner

The Federal Election Commission will have a full slate of six commissioners following Senate confirmation of three nominees on Wednesday.  (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)
The Federal Election Commission will have a full slate of six commissioners following Senate confirmation of three nominees on Wednesday. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted December 9, 2020 at 1:10pm

The Senate confirmed three new commissioners to the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday, giving the campaign finance regulator a full slate of six members for the first time since February 2017.

Senators voted 92-4 to confirm Shana M. Broussard, who will be the agency’s first Black commissioner in its 45-year history. They approved Sean J. Cooksey by a vote of 50-46 and Allen Dickerson 49-47, largely along party lines. 

The confirmations will mark a major shift at the hobbled agency, which did not have the requisite four commissioners to even meet for most of the 2020 campaign. The commission could accept and publish disclosure reports and prod candidates and committees to fix routine errors, but it could not take enforcement actions for violations without a quorum.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Broussard’s home state of Louisiana, tweeted congratulations to her after the vote. “I’m confident Ms. Broussard will serve with integrity,” he added.

Rules and Administration Chairman Roy Blunt, whose committee approved the nominees last week, said the FEC "plays a critical role in ensuring the integrity of our campaign finance system."

"With all six commissioners in place, the FEC will be stable, politically balanced, and able to fulfill its most important functions," Blunt, R-Mo., said.

The agency is designed to have three Republican and three Democratic picks at the helm. Broussard currently serves as counsel to FEC Commissioner Steven Walther, who considers himself an independent but was chosen by Democrats.  

The other two commissioners confirmed Wednesday are Republicans: Cooksey served as general counsel to Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Dickerson was legal director of the Institute for Free Speech, which favors deregulation of campaign finance.

When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed a motion to end debate on the three nominations Monday, current commissioner Ellen Weintraub tweeted that it was a big step forward “in getting the @FEC back to business!”

The three new commissioners will join Weintraub and Walther, who are both serving on expired terms, and Republican James “Trey” Trainor III, who was confirmed in May and serves as the chairman. After Trainor arrived, the FEC briefly had four commissioners, but then Caroline Hunter headed for the exit in July, leaving the agency again with just three.

Outside groups that monitor campaign finance matters said they had problems with the two GOP nominees.

“After being sidelined for the majority of the 2020 election because it lacked the quorum necessary to conduct most official business, it’s good news that the FEC can get back to work and begin addressing the hundreds of enforcement matters on its docket,” Meredith McGehee, executive director of the campaign finance overhaul group, said in a statement. “However, for the FEC to be an effective watchdog, it needs to not only have a quorum of commissioners but a critical mass of commissioners who are dedicated to upholding our nation’s campaign finance laws.”

She added that the two GOP picks were “likely to put their own personal ideologies over their responsibilities to enforce the letter — and the spirit — of the law.”