White House nominates new FEC commissioners

One Republican, one Democrat floated — both with partisan histories

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The White House today nominated two people to serve six-year terms on the Federal Election Commission.

The nominees are Lee E. Goodman, an attorney at law firm LeClairRyan, and Ann Ravel, chairwoman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission. 

Goodman will be floated to replace Republican Commissioner Don McGahn, while Ravel would replace Democrat Cynthia Bauerly, who resigned earlier this year and now works in Minnesota.

McGahn is vice chairman of commission, which campaign finance reformers and government watchdogs have roundly panned as dysfunctional under President Barack Obama's watch.

The U.S. Senate must confirm the nominees, who have been tapped by the White House at a time when all five current FEC commissioners are continuing to serve despite their terms having expired.

McGahn, for his part, said he's pleased with the decision.

"Finally, President Obama has submitted FEC nominees to the Senate for consideration," he said in a statement to the Center for Public Integrity. "As many well know, I have long desired to leave, but committed to stay to prevent the FEC from further trampling on our First Amendment and due process rights. I am pleased that a willing and capable successor has been vetted and nominated, and look forward to returning to practicing law in the future."

Ravel was appointed to the California Fair Political Practices Commission in 2011 by Gov. Jerry Brown.

During her time there, Ravel fought to force a secretive organization that spent millions of dollars immediately on a California ballot initiative to reveal its donors. The group accused her in a court filing of "rabblerousing and prejudging, including 'tweeting' her incendiary view." In November, she wrote in a tweet that "we will seek legislation for stronger disclosure and enforcement before an election."

Ravel has previously served as deputy assistant attorney general for torts and consumer litigation in the civil division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Federal records show that Ravel has made reportable campaign contributions to three Democratic presidential campaigns in recent years: $500 to John Kerry’s campaign in 2003, $2,300 to Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2007 and $1,000 to Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008.

Goodman has been with LeClairRyan since 2005. 

His previous work includes stints at Wiley Rein LLP and as deputy counselor and special counselor to the Virginia governor during the late 1990s. He likewise served as assistant attorney general of Virginia.

Goodman also worked as a registered lobbyist last decade, representing America Online and Time Warner, according to U.S. Senate disclosure records. He was an early member of the 2000 presidential vote recount team for George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, according to his Republican National Lawyers Association biography

Goodman has donated about $18,600 to federal candidates and political committees, FEC records show. All of that has gone to Republicans, except $300 in 2008 to the political action committee of the law firm LeClairRyan, where Goodman worked at the time.

Goodman donated $750 to Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign and $2,000 to Bush’s 2004 re-election efforts

In 2008, Goodman contributed $1,000 to Republican John McCain’s presidential campaign.

He did not make campaign contributions to any of the 2012 GOP presidential candidates, although he did provide legal counsel to Republican candidate and former Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. In 2012, Goodman did donate $500 to Republican U.S. Senate candidate George Allen of Virginia and $250 to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

The nominations of Ravel and Goodman, who did not immediately reply to requests for comment, are only the second and third FEC nominations Obama has made since becoming president in 2009.

His only other nominee, labor lawyer John J. Sullivan, withdrew from consideration in 2010 after his nomination stalled in the U.S. Senate.

In a statement, Obama said Goodman and Ravel are among several administration nominees out today that "have demonstrated knowledge and dedication throughout their careers. I am grateful they have chosen to take on these important roles, and I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come.”

Longtime campaign finance reformer Fred Wertheimer said Obama's two nominations are a start.

The president, he said, should now "move promptly to fill the remaining four expired seats on the FEC with commissioners who are committed to effective enforcement of the law."

Today's developments are a "step in the right direction," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which has criticized Obama for not nominating FEC commissioners sooner.

But she urged the White House to work harder "to elevate the FEC to the respected watchdog the American people expect — and need — it to be."

Chris Zubak-Skees and Michael Beckel contributed to this report.