This is very important for a number of reasons.
- In reality, Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress, and not the President, pick the nominees for the FEC (Federal Election Commission). The Democratic picks are pals/ex-staffers of Senators Reid and Schumer, the Democratic leader and the chairman of the DSCC (the Dems' senate campaign committee), respectively. This means Bennett is considered by his fellow Republican Senators to be one of the top leaders of their caucus.
- Matthew Peterson replaces Hans von Spakovski, a vote suppressor and law breaker extraordinaire. The Hans, as I like to call him, was THE project I worked on this fall, as the Campaign Legal Center waged a war to keep him off the Commission (Bush appointed him when the Senate was out of session, so his term officially ended January 1, 2008).
- The Hans was blocked by two Senators exercising holds...well three but I will get to that in a second. The two holders were Senators Russ Feingold and Barack Obama. Obama used this hold as a pitch to black voters in the dark days of last fall when he was splitting the black vote with Hillary Clinton.
- The third Senator was none other than Mitch McConnell, the Republican Leader. He refused to allow any of the other nominees to be voted on separately and insisted on all of the nominees being voted on in a block. Since everyone knew the Hans didn't have 50 votes (let alone 60 if Obama or Feingold filibustered), and the Democrats didn't want their hand chosen nominees to also go down in flames, there were no votes
- The FEC needs a quorum to do anything. And since January, they haven't had one. That means that presidential candidates couldn't get their matching funds. And more importantly, meant that John McCain couldn't withdraw his application for matching funds either. This resulted in a DNC suit against McCain for spending over the matching fund limits during his primary campaign (the lawsuit is still pending a quorum at the FEC). It also means that John McCain can't get his general election matching funds, something he desperately needs when Obama can raise a couple million by sending out an email while McCain has to spend a week at pricey fundraisers. Oh by the way, Obama raised $31M in April, McCain $18M...Obama has $9M in general election funds, McCain $0 [Hillary has more than either because she still relies on big donors to fund her campaign...thus the last majority of the funds she raised this month were general election funds, which are unusable until after the convention in Denver]
So to sum up, Bennett got his guy in there, not McConnell's guy or any other GOP senator's pick. John McCain really needs a functioning FEC more than Obama does, because Obama doesn't need matching funds for the general, whereas McCain needs those millions of dollars from the federal treasury to even keept close to Obama's fundraising, which has an army of about 3 million people.
In short, this means Bennett is becoming a pretty important guy in the Senate, and powerful senators like Mitch McConnell and John McCain will owe him one, even if he loses the election. And if McConnell loses this year (unlikely but possible), look for Bennett to be a front runner for Republican Leader.