The announcement yesterday that the top two lawyers for the Federal Election Commission had resigned helped spread an undercurrent of concern about the diminishing role of a once-prominent public voice on the intersection of money and politics.
The stated reason for the departures of FEC General Counsel Lawrence H. Norton and Deputy General Counsel James A. Kahl was that the two men had landed private-sector jobs at a large firm with offices in six states. Norton and Kahl, reached yesterday, said their resignations were not intended to send any broader message.
But those who monitor campaign finance law with some dedication said the departures coincided with a perceived shift in the way the commissioners have worked with the general counsel.
Paul S. Ryan, a lawyer who monitors the FEC for the Campaign Legal Center, said the general counsel was once free to opine publicly about pressing policy matters but that has not been the preference of the commissioners as of late.
"The influence of the general counsel has clearly been diminishing," Ryan said. The commissioners "no longer seek the general counsel's opinion publicly with respect to answering difficult questions of law."
Meanwhile, Michael Collins of Scoop Independent News gives us some good news on the election front: Three Wyoming Democrats Take a Stand for Democracy; They Ask for and Get a Recount in a Very Tight House Race. Now if we could get the same kind of concern for the democratic process in Florida.