Trump announces intention to nominate two individuals to serve as FEC members
President Trump on Wednesday announced his intent to nominate Sean Cooksey and Shana Broussard to serve as members of the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
The potential nominations come four months after Republican FEC Commissioner Caroline Hunter resigned, leaving the agency without a necessary quorum of at least four commissioners, thereby barring the FEC from voting on enforcement actions in the months leading up to the presidential election.
Cooksey currently serves as general counsel to Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), previously having served as Hawley’s lead staffer on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Cooksey also previously served as deputy chief counsel for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), has worked as a litigation associate at Washington, D.C., law firm Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, and served as a law clerk for Judge Jerry Smith of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.
Broussard currently serves as counsel to FEC Vice Chair Steven Walter, an independent. Broussard previously served as an attorney-adviser at the Internal Revenue Service and as deputy disciplinary counsel at the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board, along with previously serving as a New Orleans assistant district attorney.
Broussard, if confirmed, would be the first Black FEC commissioner.
The FEC currently has three out of six positions unfilled, with one Republican, one Democrat, and one independent currently making up the three filled positions.
Trump last month formally submitted his nomination of Allen Dickerson to fill Hunter’s position as a member of the FEC. Dickerson currently serves as the legal director at the Institute for Free Speech in Alexandria, Va., and prior to that was an associate with law firm Kirkland & Ellis.
FEC Chairman Trey Trainor, a Republican who was confirmed by the Senate to serve on the FEC earlier this year, applauded the nominations of both Cooksey and Broussard on Wednesday.
“Clearly having a quorum restored would be great for us, there is plenty of work for us to do, there have been plenty of complaints that have been generated by the 2020 cycle, looking forward to getting to address those,” Trainor told The Hill on Wednesday.
FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat, told The Hill in an emailed statement on Wednesday that the nominations were “welcome, but long overdue.”
“We haven’t had all six seats filled since March, 2017,” Weintraub said. “The FEC has more than 400 cases on its docket, and more than 200 are awaiting a decision from the Commission. We have been unable to issue any advisory opinions or engage in any rulemaking. And the intent to nominate is only the first step in the process.”
Weintraub noted that while she had not yet met Cooksey, she had worked with Broussard for more than a decade, describing Broussard as a “smart and dedicated public servant, with a deep knowledge of the law and Commission operations,” and adding that Broussard “will be a terrific commissioner and will be ready to hit the ground running.”
“I look forward to working with both of them,” Weintraub said.
If the nominations move forward, they first have to be approved by the Senate Rules Committee before moving to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.
Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said in a statement Wednesday that he “intends to move quickly to process these nominations and restore the FEC’s ability to carry out its most important functions, like holding hearings, making new rules, issuing advisory opinions, conducting investigations, and approving enforcement actions.”
“Given the unique challenges facing campaigns now and in the months ahead due to the coronavirus pandemic, I urge my colleagues to support our efforts to fill these vacancies and ensure the FEC is able to do its job,” Blunt added.
Senate Rules Committee ranking member Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) strongly endorsed Broussard’s pending nomination.
“Shana Broussard is an immensely qualified candidate who has worked at the FEC for more than a decade and I am glad to see that the White House intends to nominate her,” Klobuchar said in a statement. “The FEC needs to be fully functioning so it can enforce our nation’s campaign finance laws. However, the timing of these nominations cannot be ignored.”
“We need to stop treating the agency that’s charged with keeping corruption out of our elections like a political pawn. We must restore trust in the FEC, and confirming Ms. Broussard, a well-respected and longtime FEC lawyer, will go a long way towards doing that,” Klobuchar added.
The FEC has faced dysfunction and a backlog of cases for more than a year, beginning when former FEC Commissioner Matthew Petersen stepped down last August. Trainor’s confirmation briefly restored a quorum to the FEC between May and June of this year, but Hunter’s resignation quickly left the FEC again without the necessary number of commissioners to conduct full business.
Trainor expressed optimism about the potential for a quorum to be restored quickly.
“This gives me hope that I can set a very vigorous agenda for the rest of the year, we could have a busy November,” Trainor said.
-Updated at 7:00 p.m.
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