Senate confirms new members and restores power to long-hobbled Federal Election Commission

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed three new members to the Federal Election Commission, ending months of paralysis for the election watchdog and cementing outgoing President Donald Trump’s influence on an agency charged with policing federal campaign finance laws.

The GOP-controlled Senate voted largely along party lines to confirm Republicans Sean Cooksey and Allen Dickerson to the commission. Senators backed a third commissioner, Democrat Shana Broussard, by a vote of 92-4. Broussard, an African-American attorney who has worked at the agency for more than a decade, will become the first person of color to serve on the six-member commission in its 45-year history.
Cooksey heads to the commission after stints working for conservatives on Capitol Hill, most recently as general counsel to Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri. He previously worked for Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
Dickerson has served as legal director of the Washington-based Institute for Free Speech, and his nomination drew vocal opposition from some Democrats over his stances on political disclosure. Dickerson has argued against laws that would require politically active nonprofits to identify their donors, saying they could tamp down free speech.
    An activist group, End Citizens United, criticized the Senate for moving forward with the confirmations in the waning days of Trump’s presidency.
    “President-elect Joe Biden believes strongly that our democracy works best when every voice is heard,” the group’s president, Tiffany Muller, said in a statement. “He won this election in a landslide, and he should’ve been given the opportunity to choose the next nominees to run this vital agency,” she added.
    The Senate’s action restores a full slate of commissioners to oversee the agency, which had been unable to take enforcement actions for much of the 2020 election cycle because it lacked a quorum of at least four members.
    The FEC now will have three Trump-nominated Republican members, including current chairman James “Trey” Trainor.
      In addition to Broussard, the other commissioners are Democrat Ellen Weintraub and Steven Walther, an Independent who typically votes with Democrats. Broussard had served as Walther’s counsel.
      Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, the Republican chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, said Wednesday’s Senate vote ensures the FEC “will be stable, politically balanced, and able to fulfill its most important functions.”

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