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Indian tribes' exemption from campaign finance restrictions are being reviewed

The Washington Post reports: Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff has altered the ways of Washington. Congress is poised to stiffen the government's ethics laws because of his indiscretions, and in the meantime, lawmakers and lobbyists are already keeping their distance from each other.

But one of the biggest loopholes in the campaign funding system, one that helped attract Abramoff to his principal clients -- Native American tribes -- isn't being much discussed. Thanks to a regulatory decision six years ago, tribes are allowed to donate much larger sums to lawmakers than almost any other type of organization.

The basis for this treatment is that Indian tribes cast themselves as sovereign governments. For this and related reasons, tribes are often exempted from limitations that are placed on other groups, such as corporations and unions.

And one such exemption involves campaign giving rules. Under the usual limits, individuals can donate up to $2,100 per candidate per election and a total of $101,400 over a two-year election cycle to candidates and political committees. In 2000, the Federal Election Commission decided to classify tribes as individuals for contribution purposes, since they are not unions or corporations. The agency then added a significant twist. -- A Tribal Loophole For Campaign Gifts

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