March 21, 2011- It isn't too often that a top Federal Election Commission official fesses up to not enforcing campaign finance laws, but that's exactly what Donald McGahn, a Republican commissioner of the FEC, did Saturday.
"I'm not enforcing the law as Congress passed it," McGahn boasted regarding the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, commonly known as McCain-Feingold after its chief congressional sponsors, in a keynote speech at a symposium at the University of Virginia Law School. "I plead guilty as charged."
McGahn's admission of "guilt," however, came with a catch: He argued that it wasn't his job to enforce this law as Congress passed it.
Instead, he said, the commission's job was to enforce the law as it's been upheld by the judicial branch of government.
"In a close call, the tie goes to the speaker, not the regulator," he continued. "The court has said certain [portions of McCain-Feingold] are unconstitutional."
He cited the Supreme Court's rejection of limitations on expenditures by issue groups in Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life during 2006, of the so-called "Millionaires' Amendment" of 2008 and prohibition on corporate independent expenditures in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010.
He accused his Democratic colleagues on the commission of not taking these rulings to heart and offering regulatory "overreach" instead of solutions.
The divergent views among the commission's three Democrats and three Republicans have often meant gridlock.