Yesterday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration held a hearing to consider the nomination of Trey Trainor to be a member of the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
Since the end of August, the FEC has been short three members, meaning that it is without a quorum and cannot fully operate.
Trainor is a Republican lawyer from Driftwood who has represented numerous influential clients in the state, including Empower Texans, Texas Right to Life, the Texas Republican Party, the Texas Secretary of State, and President Trump’s campaign.
“Throughout the time that I’ve known Trey, I’ve been consistently impressed with his commitment to the rule of law and his depth of knowledge of election law,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in a press release.
Cruz could not be at the hearing in person due to his self-quarantine over coronavirus concerns.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), the chairman of the committee, noted that the confirmation of Trainor to the position would create a quorum.
Under its current status, FEC staff are still able to collect and disclose campaign finance information, but the commissioners are unable to hold meetings, conduct and approve audits, or carry out investigations.
Although their terms have all expired, three members who were appointed under President George W. Bush still serve on the commission and can continue to do so until they are replaced by the Senate.
A total of six members are allowed on the FEC, with four needed for a quorum. Since the positions are partisan, no more than half of the seats can be filled by candidates of a single party.
Consequently, there are often three Republicans and three Democrats on the commission. Nominations, though, still need to be approved through the Senate.
If Trainor is appointed, he would replace the seat vacated by Commissioner Matthew Petersen last August.
Although Trainor’s confirmation would establish a quorum, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) criticized Republicans and the Trump administration for nominating a Republican while overlooking the recommendations of Senate Democrats to nominate Shana Broussard for the FEC.
“[Broussard] has been vetted and cleared,” said Klobuchar. “She is mentally qualified and she would be the first person of color to ever sit on the FEC. The idea is that we would have paired these nominations together. So the Democratic seat will remain vacant and the agency charged with enforcing our campaign laws will remain ineffective.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) noted at the hearing that the appointment of Trainor would “reestablish parity between the two parties,” as Trainor would fill the second Republican seat in the FEC.
The other two current members include one Democrat and one Independent, who Broussard works for.
But with all of the current commissioners serving under expired terms, McConnell called for a “clean slate” of six new members to be appointed to the FEC.
Trainor’s nomination is expected to continue moving through the committee before it goes to the Senate floor for a full vote.
“If the Senate votes to confirm me to this post, I will approach my work at the FEC in an objective and methodical manner,” said Trainor in his prepared remarks. “I fully recognize that the touchstone for all regulation of political speech is the First Amendment, and that the U.S. Supreme Court has held that our current campaign finance regulations, particularly the disclosure regime, are an allowable exception to the First Amendment for the purpose of deterring corruption.”
“Accordingly, I will always look to the statutes as passed by Congress and adjudicated by the courts as my guide in reviewing the matters that come before me at the FEC to ensure that all parties are treated fairly and impartially.”
Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. While recently finishing his degree in Political Science from Azusa Pacific University, he also interned in the U.S. Senate and co-authored a book on C. S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy. In his spare time, he might be reading up on Dostoevsky or attempting to write a novel.