WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has selected a Texas attorney — and supporter — to join the beleaguered Federal Election Commission.
Trump appointed James "Trey" Trainor III, a well-known election-law specialist based in Austin, to the panel that monitors and polices federal campaign fundraising and spending. The position requires Senate confirmation.
Trainor would serve a term that expires in April 2021, according to a White House announcement Tuesday night.
The FEC is typically made up of six commissioners, and by law no more than three can be from the same political party. At least four votes are required to take action on any enforcement matter, explaining why the politically divided FEC has deadlocked repeatedly in recent years.
Trainor is pictured in a January Austin American-Statesman story grinning broadly and holding pro-Trump signs. Although Trainor initially backed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for president, he told the newspaper that under Trump, "I think America is going to be great again."
Trainor also helped Trump at the Republican National Convention, he told the newspaper, after receiving a call from Don McGahn, Trump's campaign attorney. McGahn is now White House counsel; he previously served as an FEC commissioner himself.
A short biography released by the White House cites Trainor's experience as general counsel to the Texas Secretary of State, its Elections Assistance Commission and various other government legal roles.
The appointment comes shortly after Trump appointed one of the FEC's current Republican commissioners, Matthew Petersen, to a federal judgeship. He also will need Senate confirmation.
The moves — one in, one out — would mean that the FEC would operate with just five commissioners for now. And one of them, Republican Lee Goodman, told the Center for Public Integrity that he wants to quit by the end of this year. That could leave the panel with the bare minimum number of commissioners needed to take any action, even with the 2018 midterm elections fast approaching.
A Center for Public Integrity report notes that Trump could theoretically appoint all six commissioners as long as he adheres to the three-members-per-party rule, because everyone currently serving is in an expired term.