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Dan Schnur, a veteran GOP political strategist who worked as communications director for John McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign and handled communications for former Gov. Pete Wilson, was appointed Tuesday as the new chairman of the Fair Political Practices Commission.

Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California and a former communications instructor at UC Berkeley, was named to the position by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Schnur replaces Ross Johnson, a former Orange County lawmaker who served as Republican leader in both houses of the Legislature. Johnson announced last month that he was stepping down, citing health reasons.

During his tenure Johnson was credited with developing an aggressive enforcement policy, increasing disclosure of spending by independent expenditure committees and tracking contributions made to politicians’ favored charities.

The FPPC enforces the state’s Political Reform Act, which was spawned by the Watergate scandals during the 1970s. The FPPC, the state’s political watchdog, administers campaign finance laws and the financial disclosure records of elected officials and ranking members of the state bureaucracy.

Schnur will take a leave from his position at USC while he serves as FPPC chairman.