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FEC delays 527 regulations for at least 90 days

The Federal Election Commission today refused, for now, to put limits on independent political groups that collect and spend millions in unlimited contributions, opening the way for advocacy groups supported by Democrats and Republicans to play a dramatic role in the 2004 elections.

The decision to postpone the rules for 90 days was a victory for a group of Democratic organizations that have played a critical role supporting Senator John Kerry, spending tens of millions to bolster his campaign as he emerged from the primaries. ...

"The 2004 election is going to be the wild west," said Michael Toner, a Republican commissioner whose efforts to introduce tighter regulations were defeated by a vote of 4-2. "We are going to see Democratic groups and Republican groups taking full advantage of the legal landscape. Tremendous sums of soft money are going to be raised and spent on both sides." -- Election Panel Won't Impose New Spending Limits on Groups (New York Times) **

The agency followed the advice of its lawyers, who on Tuesday had recommended a delay of at least three months. The panel reached its decision after a five-hour meeting.

The debate is built around whether limits should be imposed on organizations known as 527s, for the section of the tax code that governs their activities that raise and spend campaign money independent of candidate organizations and the political parties. -- New Campaign Spending Rules Rejected (Los Angeles Times)

These new Democratic organizations have drawn support from some wealthy liberals determined to defeat Bush -- including financier George Soros and his wife, Susan Weber Soros, who have given $7.5 million to two of the most prominent groups, America Coming Together (ACT) and MoveOn.org.

Pro-Republican groups immediately vowed to try to match the liberal organizations. But Republicans have been under less pressure to raise nonparty money because of the success of the Bush campaign, which has already raised $200 million, while the Republican National Committee had raised $157.4 million through the end of March. -- In Boost for Democrats, FEC Rejects Proposed Limits on Small Donors (Washington Post)