Jan 21, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden taps new election money regulator

A photo of the seal of the Federal Election Commission

Scenes from the Federal Election Commission headquarters located at 1050 First St. NE Friday Sept. 21, 2018. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call via Getty.

President Biden plans to nominate election law attorney Dara Lindenbaum to the Federal Election Commission, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The nomination gives Biden an opportunity to try to shape some U.S. election rules in the wake of Congress' failure to advance sweeping election reform.

  • Lindenbaum's pick comes on the 12th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which struck down a ban on corporate political spending.

What's happening: If confirmed, Lindenbaum, a Democrat, will replace FEC vice-chair Steven Walther, who has served on the commission since 2006.

  • Walther is an independent, but is generally seen as part of the FEC's Democratic bloc.
  • As a result, Lindenbaum likely will not alter the commission's 3-3 partisan split.
  • In a statement, Walther said he will continue serving until his replacement is confirmed.

Lindenbaum is a seasoned compliance attorney who works with political groups as well as nonprofits, according to her bio at the firm Sandler Reiff.

  • She previously worked on the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law's voting rights project.
  • Lindenbaum was also the general counsel for Stacey Abrams' 2018 gubernatorial campaign in Georgia.

What they're saying: "I have enjoyed working with my fellow Commissioners and despite numerous diverse points of view regarding the issues in front of us, it has been a pleasure to work together to find common ground whenever possible," Walther said in his statement.

The big picture: The FEC regulates federal campaign finance laws, which have received extensive attention since Citizens United and adjacent court rulings expanded the influence of high-dollar political donors.

  • The commission is notoriously fractious, and its 3-3 split — along with a four-vote requirement for most enforcement actions — has resulted in deadlock on many high-profile matters.
  • This week, the Senate blocked sweeping election reform legislation that would have significantly boosted the FEC's mandate and enforcement powers.

What we're watching: Walther is one of three FEC commissioners serving on expired terms, meaning Biden could continue to reshape the FEC before a potential Republican Senate takeover next year.

  • Democrat Ellen Weintraub has served on the FEC for nearly 20 years, including a stint as the panel's chair.
  • Republican Sean Cooksey was confirmed in 2020, but he took over a seat with a term that ran out last May.
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