Even as the Supreme Court signals a readiness to roll back still further the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act's restrictions on political speech, the law's famous backers, Sens. John McCain and Russ Feingold, are threatening to take their ball and go home if President Obama doesn't stack the Federal Election Commission with McCain-Feingold enthusiasts. From Politico:
Feingold (D-Wis.) and McCain (R-Ariz.) have placed a hold on the FEC nomination of Democratic labor lawyer John Sullivan, POLITICO confirmed Tuesday. […]
In a statement issued in response to POLITICO's inquiries, the lawmakers signaled they would release the hold only if Obama taps two additional nominees to fill expired seats on the six-member independent panel, which critics contend is systematically deregulating campaign rules.
"The FEC is currently mired in anti-enforcement gridlock," read the joint statement from Feingold and McCain…. "The President must nominate new commissioners with a demonstrated commitment to the existence and enforcement of the campaign finance laws."
Over at the website of the pro-speech Center for Competitive Politics, CCP Chairman and former FEC head honcho Bradley Smith responds:
This vindictive move by McCain and Feingold is akin to announcing they won't vote to confirm Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court unless Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas are replaced, too. FEC Republicans, including apparent hold target Don McGahn, are faithfully exercising their duties in light of legitimate concerns about their constitutional and statutory authority, not simply bulldozing ahead with burdensome campaign finance regulation despite Supreme Court rulings rolling back portions of McCain-Feingold and the reach of campaign finance restrictions as a whole.
This move by Sens. McCain and Feingold is congressional meddling with the independence of the FEC at its worst. Demanding the President appoint FEC commissioners who will toe your pro-regulatory line despite clear Supreme Court precedent isn't 'reform,' it's the last gasp in an effort to defend failed government speech controls on Americans' First Amendment rights.