A Democrat on the Federal Election Commission is quitting her term early because of the gridlock that has gripped the panel, offering President Trump an unexpected chance to shape political spending rules. The commissioner, Ann M. Ravel, said during an interview that she would send Mr. Trump her letter of resignation this week. She pointed to a series of deadlocked votes between the panel’s three Democrats and three Republicans that she said left her little hope the group would ever be able to rein in campaign finance abuses. “The ability of the commission to perform its role has deteriorated significantly,” said Ms. Ravel, who has sparred bitterly with the Republican election commissioners during her three years on the panel. She added, “I think I can be more effective on the outside.” Her departure will probably set off an intense political fight over how a new commissioner should be picked. By tradition, Senate Democrats would be allowed to select the replacement, but, by law, the choice belongs to the president, and Mr. Trump has shown little interest in Washington customs.
The outcome could have a major impact on a commission long derided for inaction, even as record amounts of money have poured into campaigns. Spending during last year’s presidential and congressional races exceeded $6.9 billion, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, as “super PACs” and other outside groups spent freely as a result of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision.
Mr. Trump can pick a nominee himself so long as he does not choose a registered Republican, said Richard L. Hasen, an election law scholar at the University of California, Irvine. The panel, which already has three Republicans, cannot have more than three members from any political party.
Mr. Hasen said he would not be surprised if Mr. Trump made the pick himself, especially because his White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, was an election commissioner himself and has pushed fiercely for deregulating campaign finance.