President Barack Obama announced Friday that he'll nominate the head of California's political watchdog agency to take a seat on the Federal Election Commission.
Ann Ravel, a former Santa Clara County counsel who has chaired California's Fair Political Practices Commission since March 2011, has been an outspoken critic of money's influence over politics -- particularly the avalanche of cash unleashed by the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision.
The nomination of the 64-year-old Los Gatos resident to the full-time job overseeing enforcement of federal election law will require confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Ravel would fill a Democratic vacancy on the six-member bipartisan commission.
Obama also announced Friday that he'll nominate Washington, D.C., attorney Lee Goodman to fill a Republican vacancy.
Ravel declined to comment Friday, but Gov. Jerry Brown, who named her to the state commission two years ago, said through his spokesman: "Ann is doing a great job and would certainly add luster to the FEC."
From 2009 to 2011, she worked in the nation's capital as a deputy assistant attorney general for torts and consumer litigation in the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Division. She held the county counsel's post from 1998 to 2009.
Ravel holds a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a law degree from UC's Hastings College of the Law.
Phillip Ung, a policy advocate with the good-government group California Common Cause, said he likes Ravel, but "she has been good on some issues and not so good on others."
He praised her aggressive legal battle to unmask the donors behind a shadowy Arizona organization that made an $11 million contribution to California ballot measure committees last year. But the FPPC under Ravel's leadership also has failed to pursue some important cases of inappropriate use of campaign funds and illegal gifts, Ung said.
He noted that Ravel's arena of inquiry would actually be smaller in Washington than it is in Sacramento. That, he said, is because the FEC deals exclusively with campaign law, while the FPPC also handles ethics violations, conflicts of interest and other areas under the state's Political Reform Act.