A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Can’t be Fired


We noticed John McCain saying today that he would fire the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission if he were president. But, fortunately for the SEC chairman, the president can’t fire him.

McCain (Sept. 18, Cedar Rapids, Iowa): The chairman of the SEC serves at the appointment of the president. And in my view has betrayed the public trust. If I were president today, I would fire him.

ABC News points out that “while the president nominates and the Senate confirms the SEC chair, a commissioner of an independent regulatory commission cannot be removed by the president.” And at least one such firing in the past was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The McCain camp told ABC that McCain could, however, make it clear the chairman should go of his own accord. “Not only is there historical precedent for SEC Chairs to be removed, the President of the United States always reserves the right to request the resignation of an appointee and maintain the customary expectation that it will be delivered,” said McCain spokesperson Tucker Bounds. SEC Chairman Chris Cox, meanwhile, defended his tenure in a statement released today.

See the full ABC report for more, but do note there’s another McCain talking point in there that we debunked earlier today. McCain said Obama “took more money from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac than anyone but the chairman of the committee they answer to.” Not true. Obama’s No. 4 on such a list, and the contributions he received from employees of Freddie Mac (he can’t get donations from corporations) amounts to .005 percent of Obama’s total contributions.

Update, Sept. 25: Portions of this post were based on incomplete data. We have struck through the incorrect sections. Please see here for our corrected account. We apologize for the inconvenience.