Sunday, January 13, 2008

C-J Take Note: LA Times Says "McConnell Has A Point" On FEC Nominations And That Obama Should Take A Hike From This Issue

Yet another national newspaper, The Los Angeles Times, weighs in today on the Democrats' stubborn refusal to confirm the Republicans' nominees to the Federal Election Commission. Like other national media the LA Times takes a far more balanced approach to the issue than does the provincial Courier-Journal.

As readers will recall, last Sunday the C-J's Jim Carroll wrote a slanted piece that tried to pin the blame on Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell for the U.S. Senate's failure to confirm the four nominations (two Democrat, two Republican) for FEC commissioners. Carroll quoted as "nonpartisan" an organization brimming with Democrats, Democracy 21, which accused McConnell of engaging in "obstructionism."

The motivation for the baseless charge of Democracy 21 and other Democratic front groups is that McConnell has insisted that the U.S. Senate confirm the two Republican nominees at the same time that it confirms the two Democrats -- thus preserving the tradition of deference to the other party's nominees to the FEC. Democrats would rather get their nominees confirmed, leave the Republican nominees (especially Hans A. von Spakovsky) in limbo, and thus control the FEC during this election year.

In an editorial the LA Times (certainly not a Republican mouthpiece) agrees with McConnell's position:

Finally, there's Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who rejected a recent compromise offer from the Democratic leadership in which Von Spakovsky and the other nominees would get an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. The Democrats have 51 votes, and McConnell countered with an offer to let all four nominations go forward, but with a threshold of 60 votes, guaranteeing that the Democrats couldn't get their nominees approved without giving in on Von Spakovsky. And so the stalemate continues.

McConnell has a point. The custom of cross-party deference on nominees deserves respect, President Bush has never interfered with Democratic FEC nominees, and Von Spakovsky should be judged chiefly on his FEC tenure. But tradition doesn't give anybody a right to a commission seat. It may be worth revisiting the way FEC seats are divvied up -- the current way seems designed to please sitting politicians rather than produce a vigorous regulatory body. In the meantime, however, we have a Federal Election Commission whether we really need one or not, and it shouldn't be broken in an election year.

The LA Times also criticizes Senator Barack Obama for serving as ring-leader for the Democratic circus in the Senate that is preventing confirmation of all four nominees:

By tradition, each party proposes its commissioners, the president nominates them and the Senate approves them, through consent rather than a formal vote. This fall, a group of Democratic senators, among them presidential candidate Barack Obama, placed a hold on Von Spakovsky's nomination. Republican senators shot back by holding up other FEC nominations, and the commission has been in limbo since existing terms ended in December.

. . . Whatever his philosophical objections to this nominee, it is at best unseemly for a presidential candidate [i.e., Obama] to hinder the federal body charged with regulating his own campaign. Three other Democrats already have holds on the nomination; Obama should remove himself from this matter.

So while the C-J blames the FEC impasse on McConnell, national media recognize that the Democrats, led by Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama -- who has a conflict of interest on the issue -- are the real culprits.

But don't count on the C-J to print any retraction of Carroll's attack piece on McConnell. Neutral reporting of the facts would get in the way of the C-J 's "obstructionist" campaign theme.

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