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Skirting The Senate

Two days after signing a new law restricting campaign donations, President Bush bypassed Congress to install one of the law's Republican critics to enforce it.

He used the same method to name a vocal critic of affirmative action as civil rights chief at the Education Department.

Mr. Bush installed the two officials and three others as recess appointments Friday, avoiding Senate confirmation by putting them in their jobs while Congress was on a break. Such appointments are valid through the next session of Congress, in this case the end of next year.

Michael Toner, the Republican National Committee's top lawyer, was named to the Federal Election Commission, a six-member panel that enforces campaign finance laws. He succeeds fellow Republican Darryl Wold, whose term expired last April.

The RNC opposed the ban on unlimited contributions in the bill that Mr. Bush reluctantly signed Wednesday.

Speaking in July about the bill, Toner told The Associated Press: "Democrats are driving legislation that will put a stake through the heart of grass-roots and voter education initiatives."

In an interview Friday, he said he will fairly enforce the law, which is being challenged in court. The Republican Party is not among the groups that have sued to block the law.

"I view my job joining the agency as setting aside whatever philosophical debates occurred in the past and focusing on implementing new regulations that make this law fully effective and understandable to people involved in politics," Toner said.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., led the fight for the campaign finance law, and his adviser John Weaver said it seemed "schizophrenic" for the administration to sign the legislation and then appoint an overhaul opponent to the FEC.

Fred Wertheimer, founder of the Democracy 21 campaign finance watchdog group, said Toner's appointment underscored a need for a separate agency to enforce the new law. The other two Republicans on the panel also opposed the bill but have said they will uphold it, he noted.

Mr. Bush nominated Toner in November; four months later, the Senate had not approved the appointment.

Mr. Bush also used his recess appointment power to install Gerald Reynolds as assistant secretary of education for civil rights, prompting similar criticism that Reynolds will not promote laws he opposes.

Reynolds has criticized affirmative action and has worked for or been affiliated with organizations opposed to such assistance for women and minorities.

In a 1997 Washington Times essay he co-authored, Reynolds criticized the "civil rights industry" and called affirmative action "a corrupt system of preferences, set-asides and quotas."

More than two dozen groups opposed his nomination, including the American Association of People with Disabilities, the National Organization for Women, the NAACP and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, an umbrella organization for dozens of civil rights groups.

"This is one more example of the administration's lack of commitment to the enforcement of our nation's civil rights laws," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Mr. Bush originally nominated Reynolds in September.

The president has complained frequently about the Senate's pace in confirming his nominations, and on Friday he issued five "recess appointments," bringing his total for the year to 14.

The other three: Dennis L. Schornack as commissioner and chairman of the International Joint Commission for the United States and Canada, Emil H. Frankel as assistant secretary of transportation for transportation policy and Jeffrey Shane as associate deputy secretary of transportation.

Each was nominated "to fill a critical position in the administration that can no longer go unoccupied," said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

Mr. Bush announced the appointments at the start of a long Easter weekend on his Texas ranch.