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Maryland labor official is Obama FEC pick

John J. Sullivan, a labor union lawyer from Maryland, has been nominated by President Barack Obama to a vacant seat on the Federal Election Commission, the White House announced late Friday.

The FEC is the often toothless agency that is supposed to regulate national politics. Vacancies on the commission, which is equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, have hampered its effectiveness in recent years...as have rules that require a majority vote on commission actions, which critics see as a built-in way to keep the FEC from getting much done.

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As of Friday, Obama had three vacancies to fill on the six-member panel and Sullivan was his first pick.

Sullivan has been associate General Counsel of the Service Employees International Union since 1997. The SEIU is one of the most politically active unions in the country. Its primary endorsement of Obama in February, 2008, helped him build momentum against Hillary Clinton at a key period during the nomination contest. The nomination is likely to cheer organized labor, as well as critics of the FEC, which has suffered from weak leadership over the years. Sullivan is a respected election lawyer, with substantial experience in the field.

He has been vice president of the Montgomery County board of elections, and is still listed as a board member on the county Web site. He also served on Gov. Martin O'Malley's election reform transition team. Prior to joining SEIU, he was a lawyer for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and has represented the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in public employee organizing campaigns, according to the White House.

He is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts-Boston and has a law degree from Northeastern University. He was part of the Democratic recount effort in Florida after the 2000 presidential election and worked as a volunteer legal advisor in 2008 Democratic presidential primaries in three of the most hotly contested states, Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania.

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