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Scott E. Thomas


Commissioner Thomas began his service at the FEC as a legal intern during the summer of 1975. The Commission had just opened its doors in the wake of the Watergate scandal and related congressional hearings. Upon graduating from law school in 1977, Mr. Thomas worked on the FEC’s legal staff, eventually serving as an Assistant General Counsel in the Enforcement Division. In 1983, he became Executive Assistant to then Commissioner Tom Harris, a Democrat and one of the original FEC commissioners.

In 1986, with Commissioner Harris retiring, President Reagan appointed Mr. Thomas to the remainder of a six-year term. He was reappointed in 1991 by President Bush, and reappointed again by President Clinton in 1997.

Commissioner Thomas served as FEC Chairman in 1987, 1993, and 1999. He served as Vice Chairman and Finance Committee Chair in 1992 and 1998. He also has served on the Regulations Committee, the Litigation Committee, and the Commission Operations Review Committee. He has focused over the years on improving the enforcement process through the Enforcement Priority System and adequate staffing, restricting the use of ‘soft money’ through the Commission’s allocation regulations, and streamlining Commission audit, reports analysis, and disclosure procedures.

Commissioner Thomas hails from Wyoming where he graduated from Lander Valley High School in 1970. He received a degree in political science from Stanford University in 1974, and graduated from Georgetown University Law Center in 1977.

Statements and opinions

Advisory opinions



Rulemaking and litigation

Media and appearances


  • Article, "The Presidential Election Public Funding Program-A Commissioner's Perspective," Campaign Finance Institute, Task Force on Financing Presidential Nominations, Winter 2003 [PDF]
  • Article, "Beyond Silly -- What the Courts and the FEC Have Done to Congressional Reform Attempts" Practicing Law Institute Program, Corporate Political Activities 2002, Fall 2002 [PDF]
  • Article, "Obstacles to Effective Enforcement of the Federal Election Campaign Act" (co-authored with Jeffrey H. Bowman) (re:Problems of resources, mandated procedures, and bad court decisions), Administrative Law Review, Washington College of Law at American University (copyrighted 1), Spring 2000 [HTML]
  • Article, "Coordinated Expenditure Limits: Can They Be Saved?" (co-authored with Jeffrey H. Bowman) (re: How to regulate truly coordinated activity), Catholic University Law Review (copyrighted 2), Fall 1999 [HTML]
  • Article, "Someone Is Not ‘Getting It.’ Is It the Courts or the FEC?" (re: FEC lititgation stategy), Glasser LegalWorks Seminars—Political Activity 2000 (copyrighted), October 1999 (no link available)
  • Article, "Is Soft Money Here to Stay Under the 'Magic Words' Doctrine?" (co-authored with Jeffrey H. Bowman) (re: How to effectively regulate "express advocacy"), Stanford Law & Policy Review (copyrighted), Fall 1998 (no link available)


  • Testimony, before House Administration Committee (re: Regulation of Internet Political Activity), Washington, DC, September 2005 [PDF]
  • Testimony, before Senate Committee on Rules and Administration (re: Regulation of 527 Groups), Washington, DC, March 2005 [PDF]
  • Testimony, before Committee on House Administration (re: Regulation of 527 Groups), Washington, DC, May 2004 [PDF]


  • Speech, "The 'soft money' and 'issue ad' mess: How we got here, how Congress responded, and what the FEC is doing," (re: FEC's implementations of BCRA), Campaigns & Elections Election Law Compliance Seminar, Washington, D.C., Winter 2003 [PDF]

1 Reprinted from Administrative Law Review, Washington College of Law at American University and the Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice of the American Bar Association, Volume 52, Number 2. The article appeared as part of the Symposium: Regulation of Politics at American University.
2 Reprinted from Catholic University Law Review Volume 49, Issue 1. The article appeared as part of the first annual Election Law Symposium at the Catholic University, Columbus School of Law. For information on the Symposium or on submitting articles to the Catholic University Law Review, please see and link to the Catholic University Law Review.