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August 20, 2008

Louisiana: FEC says Vitter can't use campaign funds for paying legal fees

The Hill reports: Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) will not be able to use campaign funds to pay for more than $160,000 in legal fees incurred because of his involvement in the D.C. Madam scandal, according to a draft opinion released by the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Vitter has already spent $70,000 of his own money on legal bills and has asked about the possibility of reimbursing himself and paying the rest of his bills with campaign funds.

The FEC’s draft opinion, published Wednesday, however, allows Vitter to use campaign funds to pay for $31,000 in legal expenses related to a Senate Ethics Committee investigation arising from his link to Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the D.C. Madam.

Vitter became embroiled in the scandal after his telephone number was discovered among Palfrey’s records. -- Vitter cannot use campaign funds to pay legal fees

July 5, 2008

Louisana: Vitter wants to use campaign funds to pay legal bills related to hookers

The Times-Picayune reports on why being pol is such a great gig -- if you get into trouble, other people pay your legal bills: Sen. David Vitter, R-La., is asking the Federal Election Commission whether he can use campaign money to pay fees related to legal issues and bad publicity he confronted after being linked to a prostitution ring.

The letter from a Vitter attorney mentions $207,177.50 in costs, mostly legal fees, $70,000 of which the senator already has paid with his own money. The letter indicates that some of the money relates to legal representation before the Senate Ethics Committee that is "not the subject" of the request to the FEC.

As of March 31, Vitter listed $1.6 million in cash on hand in his campaign account. His office declined to comment on the FEC request.

In the letter Thursday to the FEC, Washington lawyer Jan Witold Baran wrote that the bills came about after Vitter's phone number appeared on the client list of an escort service operated by Deborah Jeane Palfrey. Baran said Palfrey tried to generate publicity by "targeting her subpoenas to well-known public officials" such as Vitter and a deputy U.S. secretary of state. -- Vitter hopes war chest can pay legal bills- NOLA.com

March 1, 2007

FEC approves Obama's contingency-funding request

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports: The Federal Election Commission unanimously agreed this morning to let Sen. Barack Obama to have a backup fundraising plan, in a vote experts say could help revive the flagging public financing system in presidential campaigns.

In an unprecedented request, Obama, D-Ill., asked the commission whether – if he wins the Democratic nomination – he could use public financing if his Republican opponent would also agree to do so.

At the same time, Obama wants to start collecting private donations for the general election in the event his GOP opponent in 2008 declined to take part in the public financing system.

The commission gave Obama the thumbs-up, provided that money raised for a potential general election campaign be kept in a separate account and fully refunded to donors within 60 days of deciding to accept public funding. -- STLtoday - News - Washington

February 22, 2007

FEC counsel drafts ruling favorable to Obama's take the money and (maybe) give it back plan

The Chicago Tribine reports: Responding to his request for clarification, the Federal Election Commission signaled Thursday that Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign may be able to solicit private contributions for the 2008 general election while remaining eligible for public financing for that same contest.

The draft response was to a question Obama's campaign brought up this month when it indicated that it would start raising money for a potential general election candidacy, nearly a year before the first caucus and primary votes will be cast.

Obama (D-Ill.) and two of his top rivals for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), have indicated they would likely reject the public financing system that has governed presidential elections for more than three decades. ...

In its draft ruling, the commission said Obama may solicit and receive contributions for the general election if he meets certain conditions, including a requirement to keep the money in a separate escrow account and that the funds not be used for any other purpose other than general election activities. -- Obama's funding question to get FEC look | Chicago Tribune

Thanks to Taegan Goddard's Political Wire for the link.

You may read the draft opinion here.

February 15, 2007

Giuliani asks FEC for advice on his speaking fees

The Washington Post reports: Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani has continued to make paid speeches at a standard fee of $100,000 since forming his presidential exploratory committee last November, mixing personal business with campaigning in a way many of his rivals in the race cannot.

Presidential candidates who are not federal officeholders are allowed to take money for speeches, as long as they are not raising campaign money at the event, distributing campaign material or delivering an overtly political speech. ...

Past speechmaking by presidential candidates has attracted the attention of election regulators. In 2003, Democrat Wesley K. Clark returned money for motivational speeches after published reports questioned whether the payments amounted to improper campaign contributions.

Clark said yesterday that he believed his speech fees were legal but ultimately gave them back to avoid giving opponents an issue, and that he worries that putting such fees off limits only hurts candidates who are not wealthy or members of Congress. -- Giuliani to Seek Advice From FEC About Speaking Fees - washingtonpost.com

January 24, 2007

Arizona: FEC considers allowing Kolbe to use campaign funds for legal expenses

AP reports: Retired Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., may use campaign funds for legal expenses racked up while the House ethics committee and the Justice Department were investigating his connection to a scandal involving House pages, the Federal Election Commission wrote in a draft advisory opinion made public Tuesday.

Kolbe, who retired last year, told the FEC that he incurred legal expenses after he became involved in the unfolding scandal over former Republican Rep. Mark Foley's salacious communication with former House pages. ...

FEC officials wrote that the legal fees count as "ordinary and necessary expenses" incurred in connection with holding federal office.

The commission will consider the case during a meeting Thursday. -- Kolbe gets green light on use of extra funds | www.azstarnet.com ®

October 4, 2006

FEC changes the rules on paying for recounts

AP reports:
Changing nearly 30 years of election regulations, House and Senate candidates as well as state parties will have to abide by federal fundraising limits to pay for vote recounts, federal regulators decided Wednesday.

The 4-2 decision by the Federal Election Commission is especially significant this year when both political parties are bracing for potential post-election challenges to results in tight congressional races. ...

In making its decision, the FEC recognized that recounts are expensive. As a result, the contributions that candidates raise from individual contributors for their recount accounts will not count against their fundraising for the election. Under current law, a candidate can receive donations up to $2,100 from individual contributors for each election. The FEC's advisory opinion approved Wednesday said a contributor who had already reached that limit with a candidate could contribute further to the recount account. -- Vote Recount Regulation Changed, Federal Regulators Deliver Split Decision on Fundraising for Recounts - CBS News

August 18, 2005

California: FEC okays congressmen's plan to raise soft money to fight Prop. 77

The Los Angeles Times reports: In a decision that could feed the political spending frenzy for the November election, the Federal Election Commission today ruled that members of Congress are free to spend without limit on California ballot measures.

The decision involved a proposed ballot measure that would change how boundaries of legislative districts are drawn, but could open spending floodgates on other ballot proposals on topics as diverse as teenage abortions and political spending by unions.

The commission ruled unanimously that federal law limiting contributions to congressmen to $5,000 does not apply to November's special state election because the balloting is entirely a state affair, with no federal candidates involved.

The FEC ruled directly on one of Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's key initiatives, transferring authority for legislative redistricting from lawmakers to judges. -- FEC Allows Unlimited Fundraising Against Calif. Redistricting Plan - Los Angeles Times

August 16, 2005

California: 2 congressmen ask FEC for permission to raise soft money to oppose Prop. 77

AP reports: Two California House members from opposite parties are asking a federal elections panel for permission to raise unlimited money to oppose Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's redistricting measure.

Reps. Howard Berman, D-North Hollywood, and John Doolittle, R-Rocklin, are seeking an advisory opinion from the Federal Election Commission that would allow them to collect "soft money" from unions, corporations and other donors to support or oppose ballot measures in the Nov. 8 special election.

Both oppose Schwarzenegger's redistricting initiative. Berman's chief of staff, Gene Smith, said the request was motivated by their desire to raise money to fight it.

Schwarzenegger's campaign committee will not be bound by limits in raising money to boost the initiative. Proposition 77 would take the responsibility of drawing legislative district lines away from lawmakers and give it to a panel of retired judges. -- AP Wire | 08/16/2005 | House members seek to raise money to oppose redistricting measure

October 28, 2004

FEC leave the funds-for-recount rule in place

AP reports: Presidential and congressional candidates can raise unlimited donations to finance recounts as President Bush and Al Gore did for their high-stakes Florida dispute in 2000.

Four of the Federal Election Commission's six members said Thursday that the FEC's long-standing rule on recount fund raising remains in effect, which means federal candidates can set up separate recount funds and finance them with unlimited donations from individual contributors. Candidates cannot accept corporate, union or foreign money.

The FEC's guidance was issued informally in comments by a majority of the commission's members. The commission stopped short of issuing a formal advisory opinion on the matter after a Senate candidate withdrew his request for one. -- FEC OKs Unlimited Donations for Recounts (AP via philly.com)

October 18, 2004

FEC will decide on recount funding on 28 October

AP reports: Election officials plan to decide before the Nov. 2 election whether congressional and presidential candidates can raise unlimited donations to fund recounts as President Bush and Al Gore could for the multimillion-dollar Florida ballot dispute in 2000.

The Federal Election Commission, responding to a request for advice by Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry's campaign, said last month that Bush and Kerry could use their legal compliance funds, financed with individual donations of up to $2,000 each, to cover recount costs.

But the FEC stopped short of addressing whether they could set up separate recount funds bankrolled with unlimited individual donations as Bush and Gore could in the 2000 recount.

The commission plans to decide that question Oct. 28, its last meeting before the election. -- Campaigns seek OK to fundraise for recounts (AP via Newsday.com)

September 30, 2004

Presidential candidates can use legal compliance funds for recount expenses

AP reports: Federal election regulators have given President Bush and Democratic rival John Kerry another fund-raising option should either of them pursue a recount like Florida's expensive 2000 ballot dispute.

The Federal Election Commission said Thursday the two can use their legal compliance funds to cover any recount costs. Both candidates are raising money for such funds.

The Kerry campaign had asked the FEC whether it could use its legal compliance fund to tide itself over in the early days of any recount.

The campaign stopped short of asking whether it could establish a separate recount fund financed with unlimited individual contributions, as Bush and Democrat Al Gore did in 2000. The Kerry campaign's Marc Elias said it would not explore that question until after the election.

Several commissioners said Bush and Kerry should not draw conclusions one way or the other on whether they could use unlimited individual money for recount costs. -- FEC: Bush, Kerry can use recount funds (AP via Boston.com)

September 22, 2004

Bush and Kerry agree -- on fundraising for a recount

AP reports: President Bush's campaign is urging election regulators to allow it and rival John Kerry to raise unlimited individual donations to cover costs for a possible recount, as Bush and rival Al Gore could in 2000.

In a letter to the Federal Election Commission made public Wednesday, the Bush campaign argued that nothing in the campaign finance laws has changed on recount fund raising since 2000.

Bush campaign attorney Tom Josefiak wrote the commission after Kerry's campaign asked the FEC for guidance on its fund-raising options should either campaign pursue a recount like the 2000 Florida ballot dispute that made Bush president. The commission is expected to give Kerry its opinion Sept. 30. -- Bush Campaign: Gifts Should Cover Recount (AP via philly.com)

September 9, 2004

FEC rules that Citizens United cannot advertise anti-Kerry film and book

The New York Times reports: The Federal Election Commission on Thursday denied a request by an independent advocacy group to use unregulated contributions to pay for television and radio commercials promoting a documentary and a book critical of Senator John Kerry.

The group, Citizens United, had hoped to get around restrictions in new campaign finance laws that prevent organizations from running commercials that mention a candidate within 60 days of the general election if the commercials are financed with unlimited soft money contributions from corporations or labor unions.

The group argued that it was part of the news media and could therefore take advantage of an exemption that allows news, commentary and editorial content to run freely around elections. But the commission voted 4 to 0 to approve an advisory saying that the group did not qualify.

"You don't want a situation where people are airing campaign commercials and they are exempt from commission rules because they are considered a media event," said Ellen L. Weintraub, the commission's vice chairwoman, a Democrat. "The danger is that the exemption swallows the rules." -- Campaign Finance: Election Board Restricts Ads for Anti-Kerry Film (New York Times)

August 23, 2004

Foreign nationals may participate in some campaign activities

Alfredo Garcia emails: On Friday, the Federal Election Commission issued an advisory opinion, FEC Advisory Opinion 2004-26, which significantly loosens the restrictions on the ability of foreign nationals - even those who have not been admitted to the U.S. for permanent residency - to be involved with the operations of political action committees.

The FEC advisory opinion came in response to a request from Rep. Jerry Weller (R-IL). Rep. Weller recently became engaged to a citizen of Guatemala. He asked the FEC whether or to what extent his fiancé could be involved in the activities of his affiliated campaign committees and leadership PAC. In his request, Rep. Weller noted that his fiancé is not a U.S. citizen, does not have permanent resident status in the United States and that she plans to remain a citizen of Guatemala and does not intend to apply for United States citizenship.

In it's legal analysis, the FEC repeated the well-established rule that foreign nationals may not, directly or indirectly, participate in a PAC's decision-making process concerning the making of contributions, donations, expenditures, or disbursements in connection with elections for any Federal, State, or local office or decisions concerning the administration of a political committee. AO 2004-26 at 3 (citing 11 C.F.R. 110.20(i)).

Without any further analysis or explanation, the Commission then concluded that Rep. Weller's fiancé could "as an uncompensated volunteer, . . . solicit funds from persons who are not foreign nationals." Id. Moreover, the Commission concluded that Rep. Weller's fiancé could "attend meetings with [campaign] personnel regarding [campaign] events or political strategy. She may not, however, be involved in the management of the [campaign]."
Id.

FEC Advisory Opinion 2004-26 will have a significant impact on PACs operated by U.S. subsidiaries of foreign corporations. Under this advisory opinion, officers of a U.S. subsidiary's foreign parent - regardless of their nationality or U.S. immigration status - may directly solicit contributions to the subsidiary's PAC from employees of either the foreign parent or the U.S. subsidiary as long as those solicited are U.S. citizens. The German CEO of DaimlerChrysler, for example, may now solicit contributions to DaimlerChrysler's PAC from the company's U.S. managers.

I added the link to the AO.

August 5, 2004

Citizens United wants to be medium

AP reports: A conservative group that complained about television ads for Michael Moore's anti-Bush documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" now wants an exemption from campaign finance laws so it can advertise a book on John
Kerry.

Citizens United contends the Federal Election Commission should consider it part of the news media, and allow it to run election-time ads for a book called "The Many Faces of John Kerry: Why This Massachusetts Liberal is Wrong for America."

In a request released this week, the group argued it should be able to run ads for the book, written by its president David Bossie, and a documentary film on the Democratic presidential nominee and his running mate, John Edwards. -- AP Wire | 08/05/2004 | Anti-Kerry Group Seeks Press Exemption (AP via The State)

"Medium" is the singular of "media."

July 21, 2004

Selling cars, or helping a campaign?

AP reports: The Russ Darrow Group asked the Federal Election Commission Wednesday to allow it to continue running car commercials, despite a new law banning corporate-funded advertisements that mention political candidates during the final days of a campaign.

The Darrow Group's chairman, Russ Darrow Jr., is a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. Under a literal reading of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law, the Russ Darrow Group would be barred from running commercials within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election.

In a 21-page request for an advisory opinion filed by the Washington office of the Foley & Lardner law firm, the Menomonee Falls holding company claims it would lose about $58 million in revenue if forced to cease advertising during these two periods.

That would translate to more than $3 million in lost sales tax revenue to the state - and to reduced employee commissions and possibly layoffs as well, the company said. -- Darrow Group seeks exemption from McCain-Feingold (AP via DuluthNewsTribune.com)

July 13, 2004

Car dealership asks, must it stop advertising because it is named after candidate?

AP reports: The Russ Darrow car dealership company plans to ask the Federal Election Commission whether it should stop running ads within 30 days of the [Wisconsin] Senate Republican primary because its chairman is a candidate.

Russ Darrow III, the son of Senate candidate Russ Darrow Jr., said Tuesday the Wisconsin company will comply with whatever the FEC rules in its advisory opinion.

At issue is a provision of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law, which bars corporate-funded advertisements that mention a candidate within 30 days of a primary, or within 60 days of a general election.

That provision was aimed at preventing corporations and labor unions from funding advertisements paid for by unregulated "soft money," aimed at helping candidates in the final days of a campaign. -- Wisconsin's Darrow Group to seek FEC opinion on advertising (AP via GMtoday)

May 13, 2004

FEC will not give answer to hypothetical question about Schwartz v. Brown race

The Federal Election Commission on Thursday threw out a request to examine how much of her own money Republican Melissa Brown could spend in her U.S. House campaign against Democrat Allyson Y. Schwartz [in PA-13].

The race is expected to be one of the most competitive House seats in the country this year.

Schwartz's campaign had asked the FEC to determine whether Brown could transfer personal funds from her primary campaign account to her general account. If Brown put more than $350,000 of her own money into the race, she would trigger the so-called "Millionaire's Amendment" - which would allow Schwartz to accept higher contributions, including from state and national party organizations, than what federal campaign finance law generally allows.

But Brown said - and the FEC agreed - that since she will not transfer personal funds from her primary account to the general election campaign, the point is moot. -- FEC dismisses Schwartz campaign finance query against Brown (AP via TimesLeader.com)

February 21, 2004

FEC Chair Smith scolds GOP

The national Republican Party has alienated its base and is using a "boneheaded strategy" in its attempt to stymie special interest groups that are raising money to influence this year's presidential election, the Republican chairman of the Federal Election Commission said yesterday.

"[T]he [Republican National Committee] is out of sync with the rank-and-file Republicans in the U.S. ... the base is alienated," Commission Chairman Bradley Smith told The Washington Times.

Mr. Smith's comments came two days after he scolded the Republican Party at a public meeting for its attempt to shut down specially created, tax-exempt groups, known as 527s, that are raising millions of dollars, primarily in unlimited "soft money" donations from corporations, labor unions and wealthy individuals, for get-out-the-vote efforts and issue ads. -- GOP-funding fight seen as wrong move (Washington Times)

February 19, 2004

FEC did/did not clamp down on 527's

The ledes in two of America's leading papers would lead their readers in different interpretations.

The Federal Election Commission said on Wednesday that advocacy groups that were established to get around fund-raising restrictions in the new campaign finance law could continue to spend unlimited contributions for television commercials and other communications, though they must do so under far more restrictive rules.

The commission's ruling on so-called 527 committees could have profound effects on the 2004 election by helping Democrats, who have been much more aggressive than Republicans in creating these committees to help the party compete with the Republicans' overall 2-to-1 fund-raising advantage. None of this money winds up in the candidates' hands but it can be used to raise issues and attack or promote candidates by name. -- Advocacy Groups Allowed to Raise Unlimited Funds (New York Times)

The Federal Election Commission decided yesterday that many of the political committees raising "soft" money to campaign against President Bush are subject to regulation, but it postponed deciding how tough the restrictions should be.

The FEC voted 4 to 2 to warn Americans for a Better Country that activities that "promote, attack, support or oppose" a federal candidate must be paid for with hard money, a type of political donation that, unlike soft money, has tight restrictions on sources and amounts. This is a broader standard than used in the past. Activities that benefit a mix of federal, state and local candidates are to be paid for with a mix of hard and soft money, the commission determined. -- FEC Moves to Regulate Groups Opposing Bush (Thomas Edsall, Washington Post)

February 18, 2004

FEC opinion on 527's

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) today approved by a 4-2 vote an advisory opinion that would limit how much soft money certain 527 fundraising organizations could spend on federal elections.

However, the commission made clear that the opinion was narrowly tailored for Americans for a Better Country, the GOP-allied group that asked for the opinion. Commissioners said they would not issue broader regulations for soft money fundraising groups until next month when they initiate a more formal rulemaking process.

Yesterday's advisory opinion applies to 527 groups that have a federal
component and are registered with the commission. For example, Americans Coming Together, one of the biggest liberal 527s with a projected budget of $98 million, would be substantially affected by the opinion because it
has a federal component. But Clinton advisor Harold Ickes' Media Fund, with a budget of $95 million, has no such federal component and is untouched by the opinion, said an campaign finance experts who filed comments with the commission. -- FEC takes modest step toward restricting 527s (The Hill.com)

Ellen Weintraub, a Democratic commissioner, said Wednesday's ruling gives plenty of room for groups on both sides to collect and spend so-called soft money donations from companies, wealthy people and unions despite Congress' effort in 2002 to root out big money from politics.

"I think there's still a lot of room out there for people to operate," Weintraub said. "You can't stop the flow of money." -- FEC Imposes New Restrictions on Political Donations (AP)

And for Bob Bauer's more detailed explanation, go to More Soft Money Hard Law.

February 16, 2004

FEC chairman against most regulation of 527's

Defying Republican Party demands to rule illegal the plans of a network of pro-Democratic political committees, Federal Election Commission Chairman Bradley A. Smith now argues that these committees should remain free to raise and spend large contributions known as "soft money."

Smith's argument, spelled out in a 37-page proposal to his five FEC colleagues, sharply increases, but does not guarantee, the likelihood that new pro-Democratic groups with multimillion-dollar budgets will become significant forces in the 2004 election and become what amounts to a "shadow" Democratic Party. -- Washington Post, Tom Edsall

Smith's draft proposal is here.

February 5, 2004

FEC deadlocks; soft money still allowed for redistricting fights

AP reports:

A New York congressman can raise corporate and union money to help cover legal fees in a redistricting case, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel asked the agency's advice on whether he could use such monies. The panel reached a 3-3 deadlock on the question Thursday, meaning past FEC decisions allowing the use of such ``soft money'' for redistricting fights apply. The commission issued those opinions before a new law banned the use of corporate and union money for federal election activity.

Engel was involved in a lawsuit over the redrawing of New York's congressional map after the 2000 Census. He asked the FEC whether the new campaign finance law would restrict fund raising by a redistricting committee he planned to form to pay his legal fees.

February 4, 2004

Public interest groups comment on proposed AO

I received the following by email:

The Alliance for Justice, joined by over 300 other organizations, filed
comments that criticize a proposed Federal Election Commission advisory
opinion that could fundamentally alter the ability of nonprofits to advocate
for the causes they care about.


The heart of the draft AO states that any communication that "promotes,
supports, attacks, or opposes" any federal candidate must be paid for using
funds raised under the restrictions of the federal election laws - so-called
"hard money." If the FEC adopts the reasoning of this draft AO,
incorporated 501(c)(3)s and 501(c)(4)s would effectively be banned from
doing anything that "promotes, supports, attacks, or opposes" a federal
candidate, even if the message focuses only on policy issues.

Here is the comment letter.

January 31, 2004

Money Flows to the "Shadow Democratic Party"

Tom Edsall reports today in the Washington Post:

Major liberal donors are demonstrating their willingness to fund a new shadow Democratic Party, according to reports filed yesterday by a network of nominally independent organizations committed to defeating President Bush in November.

At the same time, momentum to bar their activities gained new strength. On Thursday, the legal staff of the Federal Election Commission proposed regulations that could choke off the groups' plans, with backing from an alliance of Republican Party leaders and campaign watchdog groups.

The reports filed yesterday with the Internal Revenue Service and the FEC showed millions of dollars flowing from unions, wealthy individuals, environmental groups and others on the left into such organizations as America Coming Together (ACT), America Votes and the Partnership for America's Families, which are known as "527" groups for the section of the tax code governing their activities.

These and other 527 groups were formed to fill a vacuum on the Democratic side of the aisle created by the 2002 passage of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, which bars the political parties from raising and spending large, unregulated "soft money" contributions from corporations, unions and rich people.

The article also deals with the proposal of the FEC staff to regulate 527 organizations.

January 29, 2004

FEC staff proposes regulation of 527's

AP reports:

Federal election lawyers have concluded tax-exempt political groups cannot spend donations from businesses, unions and people who write big checks to promote federal candidates.

That recommendation, which the Federal Election Commission (news - web sites) is expected to consider next week, threatens a strategy Democrats hoped would keep them competitive with Republicans.

At issue is how the new campaign finance law affects the plans of partisan groups that want to defeat or re-elect President Bush (news - web sites). The law broadly bans the use of soft money — corporate, union and unlimited contributions — for federal election activity.

The proposed advisory opinion is not on the FEC website yet.

Bob Bauer has a short blurb and promises a longer analysis at his More Soft Money Hard Law website.

January 13, 2004

GOP urges restrictions on 527's

The Wahington Post reports:

The Republican National Committee plans to ask the Federal Election Commission today to ban the raising of $300 million or more in "soft money" by pro-Democratic groups seeking to pay for voter mobilization and TV ads in this year's elections.

The request marks a reversal of traditional Republican opposition to regulating political money. Democrats say the shift is motivated by the GOP's recognition that tougher regulation might work to Democrats' disadvantage.

The Republican request would restrict most political spending to "hard money" contributions, which are limited to $2,000 per individual to a federal candidate. The Republican Party and President Bush hold a substantial advantage over Democrats in raising such money.

RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie -- whose group previously urged the Supreme Court to overturn McCain-Feingold -- pointedly asked his Democratic counterpart, Terence R. McAuliffe, to co-sign the letter to the FEC. McAuliffe said he would consider co-signing if Gillespie would expand the request's scope to cover such pro-Republican groups as Progress for America, United Seniors Association and Americans for Tax Reform, most of which use a different section of the tax code, "501." "I look forward to your reply," McAuliffe concluded his "Dear Ed" letter.

James Jordan, spokesman for three pro-Democratic groups -- the Media Fund, America Coming Together and America Vote -- denounced the RNC action. "This is nothing more nor less than an another attempt by Republican special interests to silence progressive voices in an election year," he said.

The GOP is commenting on a request by Americans for a Better Country. You can review their request and the comments so far (the Republican response is not posted yet) at the FEC site. It is number 03-37.

January 9, 2004

FEC issues a non-gag rule

The Boston Globe had an article yesterday about the FEC meeting on Wednesday:

The Federal Election Commission ruled yesterday that the president, vice president, members of Congress, and candidates for those offices may play a role in campaign fund-raising events even if those who come to the event are asked to give money that exceeds ceilings set by federal law.

So long as those officerholders or candidates do not themselves directly ask for money beyond those ceilings, they may appear as speakers or in other capacities at the events, the FEC ruled. The sponsors must tell the audience that the officeholders and candidates themselves are not there to raise money outside the limits, but others there may make such solicitations.

In yesterday's ruling, the FEC continued its policy of interpreting narrowly the ban imposed on unregulated campaign giving and spending under the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act, signed into law in 2001.

The request for an opinion came from the Republican Governors Association, formerly affiliated with the RNC but now a separate 527 organization. The FEC General Counsel's proposed response is here, with the proposals of Commissioners Smith and Thomas.

(Thanks again to How Appealing for the link.)

August 25, 2003

AO to DCCC

The Federal Election Commission has released Advisory Opinion Number 2003-19. This AO advises the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee that it may "accept proceeds from the sale of used office equipment and furniture, without regard to the source or amount of those proceeds."

August 19, 2003

National Committee for Tobacco Free Kids requests AO

FECA contains a prohibition on the use of contribution lists filed with the FEC by candidates and committees for "the purpose of soliciting contributions." The National Committee for Tobacco Free Kids has requested an Advisory Opinion about this provision. The Committee wishes to know if it can use contribution lists filed with the FEC to send informational mailings to persons on the lists. The initial communication would not include a request for a contribution, but subsequent communications might (if the person mailed back a card saying he or she wished to receive more information).

August 15, 2003

"WE LEAD" requests AO

WE LEAD (Women Engaged in Leadership, Education, and Action in Democracy) has asked the FEC for an Advisory Opinion that it may accept contributions for the "presumptive nominee" of the Democratic Party (the candidate with enough pledged delegates to win) and turn the money over to the primary committee of the candidate just before the Democratic Convention.

August 8, 2003

Draft AO's

The General Counsel of the FEC has circulated the following draft advisory opinions:

to the Democratic National Committee that it may sell used office furniture;

to Rep. Denise Majette that funds raised for her defense of a suit by former Rep. Cynthia McKinney's supporters are not "contributions" or "expenditures" subject to FECA;

to Providian National Bank approving its proposal to create affinity credit card programs with national party committees.

August 5, 2003

American Bankers Association request for AO

The American Bankers Association has filed a request for an advisory opinion

whether executives of member corporations are permitted to collect and forward contribution checks to the ABA BankPAC. This may include, but is not necessarily limited to, the executives manually collecting and forwarding the contribution checks themselves; using the member corporation's inter-office mail system to help collect the checks; and providing envelopes and postage in which contributors can send their contributions to ABA BankPAC.

The impetus for this Request is the two recent settlements with national banks for "facilitating contributions" by their executives and employees. See my earlier posts here and here on this subject.

July 25, 2003

Draft AO to Bob Smith

On Thursday's agenda for the FEC was this draft Advisory Opinion to former Sen. Bob Smith that instructs him to give unrefundable contributions to the US Treasury rather than his foundation. Give it up, Bob.

Draft AO to James Treffinger

On Thursday's agenda of the FEC was this draft Advisory Opinion (and amendment) allowing James Treffinger to use some of his campaign funds to defend himself from criminal charges.

July 14, 2003

Flake's AO request

The Arizona Republic has a short article on the Advisory Opinion Request of Rep. Jeff Flake. Flake's request (discussed here, here, here, and here) was passed over at last Thursday's meeting of the FEC and will be discussed this Thursday.

July 9, 2003

AO to Rep. Flake re Stop Taxpayer Money for Politicians Committee

The General Counsel of the FEC has circulated 2 drafts of an advisory opinion in answer to Rep. Jeff Flake's questions about the activities to be carried out by the Stop Taxpayer Money for Politicians Committee. The 2 drafts are 66 pages long, so I won't have time to read them for a day or so. If you do, leave a comment to let me know what you think.

July 5, 2003

DCCC requests AO on furniture `sale

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has requested an Advisory Opinion from the FEC about the sale of its office furniture and equipment on the open market. The DCCC "anticipates that much of its old office equipment and furniture will be incompatible with the new" Democratic Party headquarters building.

July 1, 2003

Proposed changes to the NAHB AO

Ellen Weintraub, chair of the FEC, proposed extensive changes to the General Counsel's draft advisory opinion to the National Association of Home Builders. Here proposal is here. I have not seen the minutes or a news article on last Friday's meeting of the FEC, so I don't know what the final version of the AO looks like.

Anybody at the FEC reading this is welcome to send on or off the record comments.

June 27, 2003

AO to Home Depot

The FEC has published the Advisory Opinion to The Home Depot: Federal Election Commission Advisory Opinion Number 2003-14. My previous posts explain the request and draft opinion (adopted without changes). See here and here.

June 25, 2003

Draft AO to NAHB

The FEC General Counsel has circulated a draft advisory opinion to the questions posed by the National Association of Home Builders. The opinion is hedged about with so many qualifiers that it is not easy to summarize. Basically, NAHB wanted to invite members of Congress and the HUD Secretary to some of its meetings and wanted to make sure it was not violating the FECA by doing so. The draft AO explains how NAHB can do so with some limitations.

{corrected the title of the post}

June 18, 2003

Draft AO to Home Depot

The General Counsel of the FEC has circulated a draft advisory opinion to The Home Depot regarding the distribution of pins to members of its PAC to show they had given contributions. The draft opinion approves this. My earlier post on this request is here.

June 17, 2003

AO on "Agent" under BCRA

the FEC has issued
Federal Election Commission Advisory Opinion Number 2003-10, requested by the Nevada Democratic Party and Rory Reid. The final opinion differs only a little from the draft proposed by the General Counsel, but it also includes a statement by Commissioners Smith, Mason, and Toner discussing the comment letters of Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Democracy 21, and the Center for Responsive Politics. These groups had argued that Rory Reid could not be an agent for a federal campaign and a state campaign in the same two-year cycle. My posts on the original request and the comments are here, here, and here.

June 12, 2003

AOR for ex-Sen. Bob Smith

Remember Bob Smith, the Republican Senator from New Hampshire who left the GOP, became an independent running for president, then rejoined the GOP -- the one who was defeated in the Republican primary in 2002? Yeah, that Bob Smith. He now refers to himself as "U.S. Senator Bob Smith, N.H., Ret'd."

Retired-Sen. Smith has requested an advisory opinion on the use of the unusable contributions to his general election campaign. He tried to give them all back (in accord with the law), but $60,000 in checks are uncashed. Retired-Sen. Smith wants to give the money to his new foundation, the American Patriot Foundation, Inc.

US Attorney opposes Treffinger's AO Request

James Treffinger asked the FEC for an advisory opinion on using his leftover federal campaign funds for his defense fund. The US Attorney who prosecuted Treffinger has filed a comment on the AOR. The prosecutor asks the FEC to hold that a guilty felon (he pled guilty) should not be allowed to use his campaign funds for his defense, since the case did not involve his campaign, but his earlier elected position in Essex County, NJ.

June 6, 2003

Draft FEC Advisory Opinions

At today's meeting of the FEC, the Commissioners will consider two draft opinions proposed by the General Counsel.

In answer to the request of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the draft would hold that student members are "members" and may therefore be solicited for contributions to the AAO's PAC.

In answer to the request of the Nevada Democratic Party and Commissioner Rory Reid, the draft proposes that the FEC find that
1. Comm. Reid is not automatically the agent of his father, Sen. Harry Reid.
2. Comm. Reid is not the agent of his father now just because he was in past.
3. Comm. Reid may raise money for the state party and for Sen. Reid, as long as his authority from Sen. Reid is for federal fund-raising only. (This is way too simplified, but just go read the opinion -- or wait for it to be modified by the Commission.)

May 16, 2003

More advice sought for defense fund

Another pol in trouble, James W. Treffinger, is seeking to use his leftover campaign funds for the defense of his criminal case. See his request here.

May 15, 2003

Campaign Legal Center comments on

Campaign Legal Center comments on Rep. Majette's request for Advsiory Opinion

Rep. Denise Majette has asked for an Advisory Opinion about the creation of a Legal Defense Fund. The Campaign Legal Center has filed a comment pointing out the effect of the BCRA on the proposed fund.

May 13, 2003

Providian National Bank wants to

Providian National Bank wants to market political party affinity credit cards

Providian National Bank, a large credit card issuer, has requested an advisory opinion from the FEC whether it may enter into agreements with national political parties to use their mailing lists to solicit customers for credit cards branded with the political party name and symbol. If the customer chose a rebate credit card, he or she could direct that the rebate be paid to the political party.

May 12, 2003

Draft advisory opinion on refunds

Draft advisory opinion on refunds to contributors

The General Counsel has circulated to the FEC commissioners a draft advsiory opinion to the Virginia Highlands Advancement Fund. The VHAF received a refund from the IRS and wants to know what it may do with the funds. The draft opinion advises that the Fund should make pro rata refunds to its contributors.

May 4, 2003

AO request: Home Depot Home

AO request: Home Depot

Home Depot, Inc., has requested an Advsory Opinion. It wishes to give a pin advertising the company's separate segreted fund to the contributions to the fund. Home Depot wants to know if it can give these pins and whether the employees can wear them. (Warning: I have been able to read the request online, but any attempt to print it has frozen my computer.)

AO request: Rep. Majette's defense

AO request: Rep. Majette's defense fund

Rep. Denise Majette (D-Ga4) defeated Rep. Cynthia McKinney in the Democratic primary last year. Supporters of McKinney have brought suit against Majette charging violations of the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution because an alleged conspiracy to have Republicans vote in the Democratic primary. Majette has requested an Advisory Opinion that funds raised for a defense fund are not contributions under the Federal Election Campaign Act. The request and its supporting documents are 163 pages long. If you are interested in the suit by the McKinney backers, you can find it in the attachments to the request.

FEC Advisory Opinion re payroll

FEC Advisory Opinion re payroll deductions for PAC

At the meeting on 8 May, the FEC will consider the draft Advosory Opinion to the Public Services Enterprise Group, Inc.. PSEG wants to transfer all payroll deduction authorization from one separate segregated fund to another. The draft authorizes this if certain conditions are met.

April 28, 2003

FEC takes mixed action on

FEC takes mixed action on complaint charging evaision of BCRA by both parties (2)

Trevor Potter has written to me:

The Campaign Legal Center now has all the public components of the FEC
case released today involving complaints against 'shadow party'
committees up on its website. This includes the General Counsel's Report
and recommendations, and the statements of reasons of the two dissenting
Commissioners and Commissioner McDonald. The documents make very
interesting reading.

Here is where you find it.

FEC takes mixed action on

FEC takes mixed action on complaint charging evaision of BCRA by both parties

The FEC has decided by a 4-1 vote that the Republican National Committee violated the BCRA by giving $1 million to The Leadership Forum, but only admonished them (because the Leadership Forum gave the money back). By a 4-2 vote, the FEC also dismissed a complaint against the Democratic National Committee claiming it had violated the BCRA by helping set up the Democratic State Parties Organization. See the AP report here.

April 26, 2003

Federal candidates and state initiative

Federal candidates and state initiative campaigns

Larry Levine wrote me about my prior post about Flake:

Does the Clean Election Fund provide funds for candidates for federal offices or just for state offices? If it is the latter, then the use of federal funds would probably NOT be permitted under BCRA. If it funds both state and federal races, can federal funds be spent to repeal the state funding portions? On another level, can someone tell me why a person should be deprived of his or her first amendment rights to speak on public issues simply because that person holds or seeks a federal office? Let's see if I have this right: some people are moving with some success to restoring the right to vote to convicted felons while others are seeking to silence federal office holders and candidates in debate of issues that will appear on the same ballot on which felons can vote. I know it's an non-sequitur, but ironic anyway.
My response to him was:

The Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Act applies only to state candidates. See Commission's web site. However, that does not make a difference. The point is that Flake has organized a group to put an initiative on the Arizona ballot. Whatever the subject matter of the initiative -- and it could be to regulate Indian gaming, air pollution, water rights, or anything else -- it is a state campaign not a federal one.

The BCRA does not prohibit Flake from speaking on the initiative. I think it was the Brennan Center that made that point in its comment on the Flake request. What it does do is prohibit Flake from raising or spending funds directly or indirectly in excess of the federal limit. In other words, Flake can spend his campaign's money on the initiative if he wants to. What he can't do is set up another committee that raises "non-federal" money and spends it to promote a ballot initiative.

April 25, 2003

Federal candidates and state initiative

Federal candidates and state initiative campaigns

The request (of Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)) to the FEC for an Advisory Opinion has drawn several comments. Flake set up a group called Stop Taxpayer Money for Politicians Committee which wants to circulate petitions for an initiative to repeal the Clean Elections fund in Arizona. The problem is that Flake is a federal official and he is wondering if working on this state campaign at the same time as he is running for re-election (or perhaps against Sen. John McCain) will violate the BCRA.

The Brennan Center argues that because the BCRA "unambiguously prohibits initiative campaign committees that were established by candidates for federal office from raising money from sources or in amounts that are not permitted by federal law," the Stop Committee must raise funds only in accord with the BCRA.

The Center for Responsive Politics agrees with the general point of the Brennan Center letter, but goes further in arguing that the Stop Committee will engage in federal election activity and electioneering communications during a federal election, and engage in prohibited coordination with a federal campaign (Flake's). It concludes that the Stop Committee "would resolve most, if not all, its compliance issues by soliciting, receiving and spending only federal funds. The Center also suggests that portions of the request ask for advice about hypotheticals, and the FEC should reject those.

Common Cause and Democracy 21 urge the FEC to reject the whole request because it asks for general advice about how to comply with the law if the Committee takes a variety of forms. In addition to the points made above by the other commentators, these two organizations argue that Flake and the Committee have already violated the BCRA by soliciting non-federal funds; and that it makes no difference what form the Committee takes (527 group or 501(c)(3)).

The Campaign Legal Center covers the same terrain in a longer letter that points out the importance of ballot initiatives and urges the FEC not to allow "a blurring of the line between political campaign and initiative processes."

FEC adopts Advisory Opinion to

FEC adopts Advisory Opinion to Virginia officials and Rep. Cantor

The FEC apparently adopted a modified version of the General Counsel's draft advisory opinion according to the details in this AP story.

April 24, 2003

FEC Advisory Opinion on Federal

FEC Advisory Opinion on Federal Officials and State Campaigns

Just before today's meeting of the FEC, Commissioner David Mason filed a proposed revision of the General Counsel's draft advisory opinion in response to the questions of several Virginia state and local officeholders and Congressman Eric Cantor. They asked how much involvement Cantor could have in state and local campaigns. Mason's proposed changes would, like the proposal of Commissioner Bradley Smith, allow a federal candidate to ask for money generally but not ask for money above the federal limits. This reverses the presumption in the General Counsel's letter that the federal official or candidate would have to make an explicit statement that he or she was seeking money only within the federal limits.

The Campaign Legal Center filed a comment generally in support of the General Counsel's draft.

The Center for Responsive Politics filed a comment opposing Commissioner Smith's draft and generally supporting that of the General Counsel. However, the CRP would hold each person who speaks at an event responsible for the statements of other speakers.

Pending requests for FEC advisory

Pending requests for FEC advisory opinions

The AP had a story yesterday about the requests for advisory opinions by Rory Reid, Eric Cantor, and Jeff Flake. Old news to those who read this blog.

April 23, 2003

FEC Advisory Opinion on Federal

FEC Advisory Opinion on Federal Officials and State Campaigns

Common Cause and Democracy 21 have filed a comment with the FEC endorsing the General Counsel's draft of the advisory opinion.

FEC Advisory Opinion on Federal

FEC Advisory Opinion on Federal Officials and State Campaigns

Here is an article in The Hill discussing the forthcoming advisory opinion I have discussed here and here.

April 22, 2003

FEC Advisory Opinion on Federal

FEC Advisory Opinion on Federal Officials and State Campaigns

At Thursday's meeting of the FEC, the Commissioners will have two versions of the proposed advisory opinion to Cong. Eric Cantor and several Virginia state and local officials. The General Counsel has proposed one version (discussed here), and Commissioner Bradley Smith has proposed another.

While Smith's draft places more emphasis on the First Amendment, the major operational difference in the two opinions appears to be whether the federal officeholder/candidate is damned if he does, or damned if he doesn't. In the General Counsel's draft, the federal candidate had to make clear that he was NOT asking for amounts of money prohibited by federal law. In Smith's draft, the federal candidate is OK as long as he does not ask for an amount in violation of federal law. Thus, the GC would have the candidate say, "Give as much as you can to my friend, X, but limit it to $2000 per person." Smith would allow the federal candidate to say, "Give to my friend X" as long as he did not say something like, "I want you to dig deep into your pockets and give at least $5,000 a couple."

April 19, 2003

FEC Advisory Opinion on Federal

FEC Advisory Opinion on Federal Officials and State Campaigns

The General Counsel of the FEC has circulated to the Commissioners a draft advisory opinion in answer to the request of several Virginia state and local officeholders and Congressman Eric Cantor. They asked how much involvement Cantor could have in state and local campaigns. Here are most of the questions and my very short summaries of the answers. My comments are in [brackets]. I recommend you read the whole opinion which is here.

1. May Cantor solicit donations for the state candidates? Yes, but the request must make clear that the source and amount must be consistent with BCRA. [This means, for instance, that Cantor cannot make a request to a corporation or union, each of which may make contributions under Virginia but not federal law.]

2. Will Cantor violated the BCRA if someone he solicits make a contribution illegal under federal law? No.

3. May Cantor appear at a fundraiser for the state candidates even if funds to be raised are illegal under federal law? Yes.

4. May Cantor appear at a fundraiser for the state candidates even if funds used to pay for the event are illegal under federal law? Yes.

5. May Cantor's name be used in publicity for a fundraising event for state candidates? Yes. [Some of this is also covered in answer 3.]

6. May Cantor ask others to raise money for state candidates? Yes, but these people may become his "agents" and therefore have to raise money from sources and in amounts that comply with BCRA. [This part of the opinion, if adopted by the Commission, may form the basis for the answer to the advisory opinion request by the Nevada Democrats and Rory Reid.]

April 17, 2003

Can non-dues-paying ophthalmology residents be

Can non-dues-paying ophthalmology residents be solicited by the association's PAC?

The American Academy of Ophthalmology Political Committee has requested an advisory opinion on whether it may solicit contributions from ophthalmology residents who are members-in-training of the Academy, but do not pay dues.

Proposed Advisory Opinion re charitable

Proposed Advisory Opinion re charitable matching for PAC contributions

The General Counsel of the FEC has submitted a draft Advisory Opinion to the request by Freeport-McMoRan Cooper & Gold Inc., approving its plan to match contributions to its PAC by giving a contribution to the employee's charity of choice. My post on the original request is here.

More on Nevada Democratic Party

More on Nevada Democratic Party and Rory Reid

The Center for Responsive Politics has filed a comment to the Advisory Opinion Request of the Nevada Democratic Party and Rory Reid. The Center proposes a much brighter line between permissible and impermissible activity: they propose that Rory not be able to raise funds for non-federal campaigns in Nevada in any 2-year cycle in which he raises any funds for a federal campaign in Nevada.

April 15, 2003

Nevada Democratic Party and Rory Reid

The Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, and Democracy 21 have filed two comments on the request of Rory Reid and the Nevada Democratic Party for an advisory opinion. See here and here.

The questions in the Reid request are whether he can continue to raise money for his father (U.S. Sen. Harry Reid) and for the Nevada Democratic Party at separate events, times, etc -- it appears from the letter. Both comments say that the combination of the facts presented lead to the conclusion that Rory Reid would be an "agent" of the Harry Reid campaign while he was raising non-federal funds.

Both comments disclaim any desire to have a rule that children or other relatives of candidates are always their agents, but both emphasize that the totality of the situation makes Rory an agent of Harry. OK, let's leave aside the relationship for the moment. The Campaign Legal Center comment emphasizes that Rory wants to switch back and forth between being a federal and non-federal fund-raiser. Does that mean "once a federal fundraiser, always a federal fundraiser"? Or just for some finite but long period of time?

Does raising funds for Sen. Blowhard for his kickoff dinner in February make one an agent of Blowhard for the rest of the year? Is there a way that Sen. Blowhard can give a sort of commission that says, "You are my agent for the month of February and no longer" or "You are my agent to solicit from the people listed on attachment A"? Is that what it will take to allow one person to work on raising funds for both state and federal candidates (assuming the state candidates don't want to raise and report funds under the BCRA)? Otherwise, each person will have to decide before fundraising whether he or she wants to be in the Sharks or the Jets.

Maybe Congress should have required that every fundraiser have a license from the intended recipient and have to show the license to everyone solicited. (Or the FEC can adopt a regulation.) If Rory was raising money for the Harry Reid campaign, he could show his federal badge. But if he were raising non-federal funds, he could show his non-federal badge.

Sen. Fitzgerald

The Washington Post reports today,

Republican first-term Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, whose Illinois seat is considered key to the GOP's chances to maintain its majority in the Senate in 2004, will not seek re-election, state Republicans said Tuesday.

You will remember that Fitzgerald had requested an advisory opinion from the FEC late last month on whether his personal payment of the interest on his 1998 campaign debt might trigger the Millionaire's Amendment provision of the BCRA. I suppose he will withdraw the request now.

April 4, 2003

Nevada Democrats request FEC advice on "agency"

The Nevada Democratic Party and Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid have requested an advisory opinion regarding the meaning of "agent" for purposes of the BCRA. Rory Reid is the son of Sen. Harry Reid. The NDP wants Rory to raise money for its non-federal account.

The NDP wants to make sure that Rory is not considered an agent of Harry just be virture of being his son. It also wants to determine that Rory can raise money for the NDP non-federal account even if he also is raising money about the same time for Harry, but not in connection with the same event.

Michigan Democrats request FEC advice on fringe benefits

The Michigan Democratic State Central Committee has requested an advisory opinion on this question:

Should amounts expended by MDSCC for fringe benefits for employees, such as insurance and retirement benefits, be treated in the same manner as "salaries and wages" for purposes of allocating such expenses between Federal and non-Federal accounts under the FEC regulations?

Don't you think the answer should be "yes."

April 3, 2003

Sen. Fitzgerald requests FEC advisory opinion (2)

A high official at the FEC has pointed out to me that I mischaracterized the Fitzgerald request. Here is what Unnamed Official said:

The Fitzgerald AO Request does not ask "whether the Senator may pay interest on bank loans made to his campaign committee from his personal funds or whether this constitutes an "expenditure from personal funds" prohibited by the FEC regulations" (it clearly is not prohibited - as you know, an individual can spend unlimited amounts of his own funds on a senate race). Rather, he asks if doing so will trigger higher contribution limits for an opponent under the "Millionaire's Amendment" of McCain-Feingold, when the bank loans in question were for his 1998 campaign.

My apologies to all and thanks to Unnamed Official. I should have double checked the regulatory citation in the Fitzgerald letter.

SWP can keep donor list secret

The AP reports that the FEC yesterday approved the advisory opinion to the Socialist Workers Party I had discussed here.

April 1, 2003

Sen. Fitzgerald requests FEC advisory opinion

Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-IL) and Fitzgerald for Senate have requested an opinion on whether the Senator may pay interest on bank loans made to his campaign committee from his personal funds or whether this constitutes an "expenditure from personal funds" prohibited by the FEC regulations.

Cong. Lewis withdraws request for FEC advice

Cong. Ron Lewis (D-Ky2) has withdrawn his request for an advisory opinion. I reported his request here.

March 27, 2003

Cong. Ron Lewis requests Advisory Opinion from FEC

Rep. Ron Lewis (R-Ky 2) has requested an advisory opinion on whether he may sit as a member of the State Central Committee of the Republican Party of Kentucky. He says that NRCC attorneys say "no," but RPK attorneys say "yes."

draft FEC opinion to Socialist Workers Party

At its next meeting, the FEC will consider a draft Advisory Opinion granting the SWP a further partial exemption from having to report the names of its contributors.

The SWP's request and extensive documentation is here, here, and here.

FEC says PAC contributions up in 2002

The FEC's News Release today reports:

Financial activity by political action committees (PACs) increased during 2001-2002 when compared to the prior two-year period, according to figures compiled by the Federal Election Commission. From January 1, 2001, through December 31, 2002, PACs raised $685.3 million and spent $656.5 million, each up 13% over 1999-2000. Cash on hand as of December 31, 2002, for the 4,594 PACs totaled $184.3 million.

The press release contains links to 15 spreadsheets with more details.

March 25, 2003

Comment on the NAHB request for FEC opinion

Earlier I reported the National Association of Home Builders asked for an Advisory Opinion on inviting federal office holders to its meetings. The Campaign and Media Law Center has now filed a comment on the NAHB request.

March 24, 2003

Virginia Highlands Advancement Fund

The Virginia Highlands Advancement Fund has requested an Advisory Opinion from the FEC. The VHAF is a 527 organization connected an unnamed federal officeholder (I think it is Rick Boucher, D, VA-9, based on the return address of the Fund) which has closed down. It has received a tax refund and wants to refund the money pro rata to it contributors.

There is a series of letters. You must start at the back and work you way forward to get the questions right.

March 19, 2003

PSEG requests FEC advisory opinion

Public Service Enterprise Group, Inc. has requested an Advisory Opinion from the FEC about transferring its restricted class employees' contributions (via payroll deduction) from one PAC to another.

March 14, 2003

Nat'l Ass'n of Home Builders requests FEC opinion

The National Association of Home Builders has requested an advisory opinion on whether federal officeholders, candidates, and their agents may attend, participate, and speak at NAHB meetings -- both those open to all NAHB members and those open only to firms making a certain level of contribution to the NAHB's "Voter Mobilization" fund.

The request and supporting materials are 66 pages long. The original request begins on page 62. Read that first to avoid being as confused as I was in going through the materials.

This request is related to the one a few days ago from Virginia state and local officeholders about whether federal officeholders and candidates could be involved in state and local campaigns.

March 11, 2003

Corporation seeks FEC opinion on contribution matching

Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. has asked the FEC for an advisory opinion on its proposed incentive plan for PAC contributions. The plan would work this way: For each contribution to its PAC, Freeport would give an equal amount to a charity chosen by the PAC contributor. Freeport's request notes that the FEC has approved similar incentive plans in the past.

FEC advice sought by local candidates

Several Virginia state and local officeholders who will be up for election this year have asked the FEC for an advisory opinion on the amount and kind of involvement federal officeholders can have in their campaigns.

January 16, 2003

FEC advisory opinion to Libertarians

I mentioned yesterday that the FEC was considering an advisory opinion to the Libertarian National Committee. Commission Chair Ellen Weintraub proposed an alternative opinion that would allow national parties to sell items on the commercial market. Her proposed draft is here.

The Commission has apparently gone along with Weintraub's position, even though this article credits the idea to David Mason.

January 15, 2003

FEC draft advisory opinion to the Libertarians

Tomorrow (16 January), the FEC will consider a draft advisory opinion prepared by the General Counsel's office in response to a request from the Libertarian National Committee. The LNC is covered by the BCRA because it is a "national party committee."

The LNC, like other national parties, used to deposit in its non-federal account any money it received from the sale or lease of its property, such as leasing its mailing lists, selling ads in its national newsletter, and licensing the sale of merchandise with its logo. The FEC has held that over the years that this sort of income is still a "contribution" and must be raised in accordance with the FECA if it is to be deposited in the federal account. Now that national party committees are forbidden to raise soft (i.e., non-federal) money, the LNC asked for a waiver. The draft AO says "no."

For background on the request, go here.