GOP commissioner: Trump poised to revamp election agency

President Trump will probably replace a majority of commissioners on the Federal Election Commission (FEC) this year, Republican Commissioner Lee Goodman told The Hill. The move could reset the agency's agenda for the first time in nearly a decade.

"I know that I am looking to depart the agency sometime this year,” said Goodman, who has served on the commission since 2013. “I would expect a new cast of at least four commissioners, probably this year."

Democratic Commissioner Ann Ravel left the six-member agency at the end of February, leaving behind three Republican and two Democratic colleagues.

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Ravel had been at the forefront of an effort by Democrats to regulate more political speech on the web by voting to require disclaimers on websites, including Twitter and YouTube. Goodman developed a reputation as the most outspoken opponent to Ravel and other Democrats on the commission, arguing that their proposals could extend to political outlets such as the Drudge Report or Fox News.

 

The agency's deep internal conflict has led to speculation that Trump could make a critical change in the way he selects commissioners. The law prevents the president from selecting more than half of the commission's members from the same political party, which means that appointees have traditionally been split between Republicans and Democrats. Observers have pointed out that Trump could nix the agency's Democrats by appointing half of the members from third parties.

But Goodman, who spent a year as the FEC's chairman in 2014, said he doesn't believe that kind of structural change is necessary, arguing that his side has already won on the biggest issues both within the commission and around Washington.

He cited the Federal Communications Commission, where Republican Ajit Pai took over as chairman, and Judge Neil Gorsuch, Trump's nominee for a slot on the Supreme Court.

“I think we all support a very free internet. I think that’s going to be a very significant change in the regulatory state under this president," Goodman said, adding that Gorsuch could discourage legal challenges to the FEC's decisions.

“I don’t think that under … a Justice Gorsuch, that you will see a retrenchment of First Amendment rights in the area of political speech and campaign finance,” Goodman said. “I am expecting that if … Gorsuch is confirmed, he will defend First Amendment freedoms robustly in the political sphere.”