Federal Election Commissioner Ann Ravel wished to step down until she met with President Barack Obama in early 2016, who persuaded her to stay on board through the November election in return for two favors, a senior federal government official has told The Daily Caller.
Ravel, a Democrat, told the senior government official about the arrangement in private and even showed the official pictures of her and Obama in The White House. The official told TheDC Ravel had wished to step down and move back to California before the Jan. 28 White House meeting. Obama told Ravel she could move back and do most of her work from California and that she would be supported in her effort to replace California Attorney General Kamala Harris as Attorney General if Harris were to win her Senate election.
The government official said that Ravel didn’t say that the support would necessarily come directly from President Obama but from senior Democratic officials. It was recently reported by the Washington Examiner that Ravel is a top contender to be appointed by California Gov. Jerry Brown if Harris were to be elected senator.
Ravel told TheDC that she did not discuss becoming California attorney general with President Obama and that she has not “moved” to California as her family has always had a home there. Ravel said that her decision to stay on board as FEC commissioner was made before the meeting. The White House has not returned a Daily Caller request for comment.
White House visitor logs show Ravel met with President Obama and Stacy Koo, then-chief of staff for presidential personnel, on Jan 28.
“I believe it is improper for an FEC commissioner to be having a discussion and making deals with a sitting President, who is in essence the leader of the Democratic Party,” Hans von Spakovsky, a former FEC commissioner under President George W. Bush and currently a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told TheDC. “Given the fact that the FEC commissioner everyday is dealing with cases that directly and indirectly effect that same political party.”
Von Spakosky added, “In my time as a commissioner I never had a single meeting with the president in the White House, and I would consider it wrong to do so because of the fact we handle so many matters involving his political party.”
Less than a month after her meeting with President Obama, Ravel voted to dismiss an enforcement action against Obama and the Democratic National Committee for allegedly taking foreign money at a fundraiser. Federal regulations regarding the FEC state that a “conflict of interest means a situation in which an employee’s private interest is inconsistent with the efficient and impartial conduct of his or her official duties and responsibilities.”
Von Spakosky told TheDC that, in his view, Ravel having a deal with Obama and then voting on an enforcement action involving him fits the definition of a conflict of interest.
Ravel has been somewhat outspoken about her political beliefs during her time as FEC commissioner. In 2014, she supported a rule change to regulate online political speech, the result of which another FEC commissioner said could target sites like the Drudge Report. Less than two months after her meeting with Obama, Ravel released a statement calling for new FEC rules to address challenges brought by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.
If Ravel had stepped down from the FEC there would be have been on less Democrat one the commission, and the senate could have delayed appointing a new commissioner.