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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Biden is being encouraged to effectively pack the nation's top campaign finance regulator with officials who will more doggedly enforce laws regulating political money, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The notoriously gridlocked Federal Election Commission has rankled reformers for years. Now some are pushing Biden to abandon protocol by sidestepping congressional Republicans and nominating regulators who will more aggressively enforce campaign finance rules.

What's new: A three-page memo, shared with officials in the White House and obtained by Axios, details a strategy for effectively remaking the FEC.

  • The memo's author, a prominent voice in the campaign finance reform world, provided it to Axios on the condition of anonymity and said it was shared with White House staff last month.

How it would work: By law, the six-member FEC can have no more than three commissioners from either major political party.

  • In its current form, though, it technically has just two Democrats. A third member, Commissioner Steven Walther, is widely considered a Democrat-aligned vote but technically an independent.
  • One of two new Republican commissioners, Sean Cooksey, was confirmed in December to a term expiring at the end of April.
  • Biden could, the memo argues, nominate a true Democrat to replace Cooksey, effectively giving the commission a four-member "pro-enforcement majority" while staying within the three-member party limit.

What they're saying: "The president has an immediate and unilateral opportunity to establish a solid and enduring pro-enforcement governing majority," the memo says.

  • Doing so, it adds, will require "bypassing informal and disadvantageous appointment norms" — and is sure to draw the wrath of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

McConnell has long championed less-aggressive campaign finance enforcement.

  • The protocol establishes that presidents consult with the Senate leaders of both parties and nominate FEC commissioners based on their recommendations. Enacting a proposal such as this would blow up that precedent.
  • "All these options represent a serious provocation to Sen. McConnell," the memo warns. "But if President Biden is serious about having campaign finance law enforced during his administration, he must be willing to cross Sen. McConnell one way or another."

The bottom line: It's not clear whether, or how seriously, Biden and his staff are considering the proposal.

  • The White House has backed sweeping election reform legislation that would remake the FEC entirely, but its prospects in the Senate are questionable.
  • Packing the FEC would likely face similar Senate hurdles, particularly in light of McConnell's vehement opposition.
  • The White House declined comment.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Scoop: U.S. and Israel to hold strategic Iran talks on Tuesday

Jake Sullivan. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty

Top national security officials from the U.S. and Israel will convene virtually on Tuesday for a second round of strategic talks on Iran, three Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: The talks come two days after an explosion at an Iranian nuclear facility that experts consider a likely act of Israeli sabotage, and one day before the U.S. resumes indirect nuclear talks in Vienna over a return to the 2015 nuclear deal — a prospect that has raised anxiety levels in Jerusalem.

Updated 2 hours ago - Axios Twin Cities

Police: Officer who shot Daunte Wright accidentally pulled gun instead of taser

The officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, outside Minneapolis Sunday appeared to have inadvertently pulled out her gun instead of a taser, police said.

Driving the news: "This appears to me, from what I viewed in the officer's reaction and distress immediately after, that this was an accidental discharge that resulted in the tragic death of Mr. Wright," Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon told reporters Monday.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: The warning signs of a longer pandemic — CDC director: Answer to Michigan COVID-19 surge is "to close things down."
  2. Vaccines: Former FDA chief offers reality check on vaccine passports.
  3. Economy: Jobs growth could be curbed by demands for higher wages.
  4. World: Facebook to push notifications about vaccine eligibility to 20 countries outside of the U.S. — Brits flock to pubs for first time in months as U.K. lockdown eases.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.