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Senate Confirms New FEC Commissioner, Restores Quorum to Agency

May 20, 2020

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Republican election lawyer James “Trey” Trainor to fill one of three vacant positions on the six-member Federal Election Commission. Once sworn into office, Trainor’s appointment will not only even out the agency’s current partisan imbalance, but it will restore a functioning quorum of four commissioners to an agency unable to act on most matters since last August.

President Trump first nominated Trainor to the Commission in September 2017, but he did not receive a confirmation hearing before the Senate Rules Committee until March 10 of this year. A native Texan and graduate of what is now the Texas A&M University School of Law, Trainor has spent much of his 15-year legal career advising candidates, PACs, and other organizations on compliance with state and federal campaign finance laws. Trainor has also worked in the Texas legislature, was General Counsel for the Texas Secretary of State, and was a Special Assistant to then-Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis in 2017.

“Trey is an experienced lawyer who will bring sound judgment and an even keeled temperament to the Commission. He respects the rule of law and the First Amendment. The Commission will benefit from his service,” says Lee E. Goodman, former FEC Chairman.

When he takes office, Trainor will likely have much work ahead of him. According to published reports, there are currently 350 matters on the Commission’s enforcement docket, four requests for advisory opinions are pending, and a number of rulemaking and litigation matters await action.

Even after Trainor’s confirmation, two vacancies remain on the Commission – one for a seat traditionally held by Republicans, the other by Democrats. It is unclear whether President Trump intends to nominate one or more individuals for these seats prior to Election Day this November.

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