Position witihn Trump administration: White House Counsel

Previous experience: Partner, Jones Day (2014-Present); Partner, Patton Boggs (2012-2014); Vice-Chairman of the Federal Election Commission (2013-2013); Commissioner of the Federal Election Commission (2009-2012); Chairman of the Federal Election Commission (2008-2008); General Counsel of the National Republican Congressional Committee (1999-2008)

Freedom of Information and Government Transparency

  • McGahn has dubbed his push for campaigns and party committees to present their FEC cases in open sessions—instead of behind closed doors—as his “most enduring legacy” as chairman of the Federal Election Commission. McGahn described the changes he put in place as having “brought unprecedented transparency and due process to the agency.”
  • In contrast, as the chairman of the FEC in 2013, McGahn attempted to prevent FEC staff from sharing information with federal prosecutors unless they had obtained the commission’s approval. In defense of this proposal, McGahn accused the FEC’s general-consul’s office of “exceeding its authority” by sharing records with the Justice Department without informing commissioners. Another 2013 proposal spearheaded by McGahn, along with other GOP-appointed commissioners of the body, aimed to restrict FEC attorneys to using only government websites in researching the merits of a complaint until a formal investigation was authorized. In an open letter to the FEC, advocacy groups Americans for Campaign Reform, Democracy 21, and Campaign Legal Center responded to McGahn by calling the former proposal a “gag rule,” and the latter “absurd.”

Campaign Finance

McGahn, alongside others in the Trump cabinet, has defended the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United, defining campaign finance as a free speech issue.

  • In 2015, McGahn wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal arguing that Hillary Clinton’s support of the campaign to overturn Citizens United constituted an attempt to “rewrite the First Amendment to limit political speech.” McGahn described the push to overturn the decision as a “holy war” which “found its fullest expression in the demand for a constitutional amendment that would, in essence, repeal the First Amendment.” McGahn went on to opine on the necessity of the Citizens United ruling, stating that free speech would be “toothless without money” and, if legislators were given the authority to regulate the money that finances speech, it would only be “harder for Americans to make their voices heard in the political process.”
  • In 2014, McGahn and seven other former members of the Federal Election Commission, signed a letter protesting what they categorized as an attempt by the IRS to “interfere” with campaign finance regulations. The IRS had proposed new rules on “candidate related activity” by nonprofit advocacy organizations. The letter alleged the proposed IRS rules would “severely restrict the First Amendment-protected political activity of nonprofit advocacy organizations,” and “seriously undermine the First Amendment rights and protections of the Constitution.”
  • In a 2013 interview with the Cato Institute, McGahn denounced efforts to overturn Citizens United ruling, arguing: “Some have made no bones that they are attempting to reverse Citizens United and still silence the same speech the Supreme Court recognized as being protected by the First Amendment.” He supported his stance by claiming the media has had a “free reign for a long time” and what Citizens United did was simply give the “rights the media have had for a long, long time” to “everyone else.”