In an earlier post, I wrote of my concern that given Mr. Butler’s background at Media Matters, etc. there is a risk he would be quite partisan in his position at the EAC. Justin pushed me a bit on this point and he’s right—I don’t know how at all Mr. Butler will be in this position if he is confirmed. So what’s my real beef?
To begin with, there is already a tremendous amount of mistrust on the Republican side about the EAC, with many claiming the agency should be disbanded. (The House voted to do so already, and it is kind of shocking Republicans might allow a vote on commissioners). Choosing someone who has worked for Media Matters and who apparently has no election administration experience to speak of is (deliberately?) provocative of the Republican side. The overheated reaction of Michael Thielen at the RNLA is entirely to be expected: http://thereplawyer.blogspot.com/2014/11/victory-and-defeat-for-open-fair-and.html. I expect many more level headed Republicans to have their doubts as well.
I am not saying that Mr. Butler could not be a fair commissioner who could make decisions that he sees to be in the best interest of the country and in a non-partisan way. But he will start out at an already troubled agency without any goodwill and with lots of mistrust.
Compare that situation to the Democrats nominating someone (who is a lifelong Democrat) who has extensive experience actually administering elections, or at least being somewhat involved in the world of election administration. That would be a way to try to build some good will, bring competence and confidence to the agency, without sticking a finger in someone’s eye.
I don’t know anything about the Republican-nominated commissioners, and whether they are any better on this score than Butler. But, as indicated in my blog post (and my book), I have written off the EAC as the site for trans-partisan important work.