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Senate tables amendment to treat Indian tribes as corporations in campaign finance law

Indian County Today reports: In a Jan. 10 vote, the Senate dealt a setback to an amendment that sought to define tribes as corporations under the Federal Election Campaign Act. By tabling the amendment on a 56 - 40 vote, the chamber killed the amendment's chances of being attached to lobbying and ethics reform legislation.

But 40 senators voted in favor of keeping the amendment alive. For an amendment that did not make it out of the Rules Committee in the 2006 Senate session, according to Capitol Hill senior staff who spoke on background but not for attribution, 40 votes is a surprisingly strong showing. Unlike the House of Representatives, the Senate abides by no ''germaneness'' rules on amendments, meaning the amendment of Sen. David Vitter, R-La., can be offered to any bill, regardless of whether it is germane to its subject matter.

The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 actually leaves tribes out of account, like a bevy of laws from that era. In implementing and enforcing the law, the Federal Election Commission has made rulings on tribes in light of the 1971 enactment. Several leading results of the commission's rulings are that 1) tribes are defined for election purposes as ''persons'' but not as ''individuals,'' and so are not subject to any aggregate limit on their political contributions; 2) tribes are not political action committees ''because their major purpose is not to influence the election or defeat of candidates''; and 3) ''Because Indian tribes do not typically incorporate, are not labor organizations, and are not national banks, the prohibitions ... on these entities making contributions do not extend to Indian tribes.'' -- Vitter amendment killed in Senate vote : ICT [2007/01/19]

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