A Republican who drew frequent criticism from government watchdogs for opposing campaign finance restrictions announced Wednesday that he is resigning from the Federal Election Commission.

In a letter to President Bush, Commissioner Brad Smith (search) said he views the commission as a "fairer, more efficient, more streamlined organization" that it was when he joined it five years ago.

However, Smith added that he worries campaign finance regulations are driving people from politics. With nearly 400 pages of rules for candidates, parties and political donors, "political activity is more heavily regulated than at any time in our nation's history," he wrote.

Smith's opposition to tougher fundraising rules made him a frequent target for campaign finance watchdogs including Sen. John McCain (search), R-Ariz., who in several public appearances has urged Smith to resign.

Smith plans to rejoin the faculty of the Capital University law school in Columbus, Ohio. His resignation takes effect Aug. 21.

The FEC consists of three Democrats and three Republicans, with congressional leaders traditionally recommending the commissioners that represent their party.

Smith was nominated to the commission in 2000 by then-President Clinton to a term that expired April 30; commissioners chosen after 1997 are limited to one term but may continue serving until a replacement is appointed.

Last year, Smith served as commission chairman, a position that rotates annually between the two parties.