Federal Politics

Published — May 7, 2009 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Obama’s first choice for FEC raises questions about stance on 527s

Introduction

A few days ago, President Obama made attorney John Sullivan his first nomination to fill one of the three vacant seats on the Federal Election Commission. If confirmed by the Senate, Sullivan would fill the slot of Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat.

Sullivan, a $560 donor to Obama’s 2008 campaign, has been associate general counsel to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) since 1997. While undoubtedly the campaign appreciated his personal generosity, it was likely even more grateful for his employer’s contributions — monetary and otherwise — to Obama’s campaign during both the primary and general election campaigns. The two million-member union endorsed Obama in February 2008 and immediately authorized up to $5 million in independent spending to help his efforts.

If Sullivan is confirmed, he will likely face an issue we explored in our The Buying of the President 2008 project about the role of 527 committees in elections. In 2004, the FEC did not offer guidelines as to what these largely unregulated committees could do, but groups like America Coming Together, Swiftboat Veterans for Truth, and MoveOn were fined after the election was over for violating campaign finance laws.

In 2008, 527 groups continued to spend large sums of money on the sort of electioneering communication efforts that the FEC’s fines had indicated were not within the bounds of the law. But with the commission lacking a quorum for much of that year and with a trio of deregulatory-minded commissioners blocking some punishments even after the fact, enforcement of these provisions arguably grew weaker than ever.

Which raises the question of where Sullivan will stand on the issue. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the single largest contributor to 527 committees in the 2008 cycle: SEIU. The union’s $34,534,324 in contributions dwarfed even the second highest contributor (AFSCME with $6,403,269).

We attempted to reach Sullivan for comment. A spokeswoman for SEIU referred us to the White House communications office; they did not respond to our request for comment.

So, will the Commissioner-designate back the weak FEC status quo or use his insider knowledge of how the system works to help fulfill the president’s promise to change the way Washington works? Time will tell.

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SOUTH JERSEYTed SiroisMark SullivanTom LarkinAnonymous Recent comment authors
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Mark Sullivan
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Mark Sullivan

Trump needs to conduct these activities because the entire MSM media, excluding Fox, is campaigning against him 24/7/365.

Didn’t Monica’s boyfriend’s wife and various criminal enterprises outspend Trump by almost 2-1?

CapitalistRoader
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CapitalistRoader

Why wouldn’t he get an early start on fund raising? Hillary outspent him two-to-one in 2016. The Dem’s are the party of big money. The President knows this and is attempting to get a jump on it. Of course the Dem candidate will outspend him in 2020 so it’s only rational that he starts fund raising now.

George Young
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George Young

Oh brother. We just 8 years of the Campaigner – in – Chief. Where was this journalistic rectal thermometer then. Just another article about 2000 words too long that merely takes another slap at Trump for something he far from initiated.

j stevenson
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j stevenson

The big difference between Trump and all the rest is his refusing to accept funds from lobbyists, so they don’t have the White House access they are used to. These are the donors who buy the presidency and are as pixxed off that he won the election as are the media and the Dems. Lobbyists have never been shut out of the WH and Trump has told them he is not for sale.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Trump needs to be impeached and tossed in prison. Then have the key thrown away so he will never be free. Then he can see how it feels not to have freedom.

Mark Sullivan
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Mark Sullivan

Thank you for the usual insightful leftist low IQ Snowflake response.

barney
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hes not imprisoning them hes sending them back to their country chill tf out

SOUTH JERSEY
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SOUTH JERSEY

WHY DONT YOU HAVE FREEDOM?

Tom Larkin
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Tom Larkin

First, something positive. I was happy to learn of empirical information in article. BUT, the article was so slanted against President Trump as to be deemed fake news (“Perhaps Trump just lied.” (Two different issues)). The article mentions that President Trump raised over $67 million, but ended 2018 with $19 million. President Trump spent over $40 million 2016 and 2017. President Trump conducted 57 political rallies. The article notes the hats and T-shirts sold, but NEVER MENTIONS THE INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF REPUBLICAN SENATORS during a mid-term election that lost the House and the number of political rallies in… Read more »

Ted Sirois
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Ted Sirois

At least Trump is getting donations from willing donors. Fresh from his first election, Obama used billions of our children’s tax dollars to save thousands of union jobs in the car industry and bailed out the banks and many Wall Street businesses. This secured his source of reelection funds for his reelection four years later.

South Jersey
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South Jersey

TRUMP 2020; IS AN AMAZINGLY SMART MAN! VERY ORIGINAL & CREATIVE. I AM HAPPY TO HAVE HIS AS POTUS.

SOUTH JERSEY
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SOUTH JERSEY

THIS ARTICLE WAS OBVIOUSLY WRITTEN BY, A TRUMP-HATE-GROUP. THAT FEELS; IT IS NOT NORMAL TO BE SUCCESSFUL WITH YOUR OWN BRAND NAME. WHEN, IF FACT, IT IS NORMAL! >>>>> THIS IS >>> FAKE NEWS!!! <<<< ie: A PACK-OF-LIES; SPUN INTO; DEFAMATION OF CHARACTER. FOR A SINISTER-AGENDA OF; FASCIST DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST, COUP D'ETAT

David
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David

Are you on some kind of drugs? Writing in caps makes me think that you are grumpy old fart or a uneducated hillbilly.