And what is Mr. Newby’s answer to all this? The Declaration he submitted in defense of his actions is not a model of coherence, nor is it reassuring to anyone searching for evidence that he had the appropriate understanding of his role or of the damage he would do to the Commission by acting as he did.
Here is one strikingly obscure sentence, in his defense of disregarding past EAC actions on the requested modifications of the Federal Form: “Conclusions in the most recent EAC past appeared to be drawn by emotion regarding specific requests.” Then he recounts a conversation with Commissioner Hicks who, in Newby’s account, quite reasonably points out to his Executive Director that in light of the heavily litigated background to the issue, “it seemed logical that this was a big enough topic to go to the Commissioners.” Retreating behind vague utterances, Newby suggests that he has a different theory of the case and “and that review [of the state requests] should determine what would go to the Commissioners, rather than just moving along a topic because it had visibility or was controversial.” This more or less says it all. Newby doesn’t see (or is claiming not to see) why it is essential for EAC that its presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed Commissioners pass on major “visible” or “controversial” issues.
The New York Times has argued that the Republican Party interests have “hijacked” the agency, looking to misuse its powers to advance a partisan voting rights agenda. This is one predictable and understandable perspective. There is another: the damage done to the EAC as an agency that, by careful choice of process and program, could have maintained the credibility needed to help in promoting professionalism in election administration. Maybe it still can, but it is far from clear that it can do so if any of the Commissioners condone this Executive Director’s view of his role and accept from him this quality of judgment.