Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center sent a letter today to the FEC Commissioners urging them to reject a proposal to be offered at the agency’s October 29 meeting by Commissioner Lee Goodman to provide “regulatory relief for political parties.

According to the letter:

The most alarming suggestion in this proposal is to exempt from the definition of “coordinated” spending any public communication that refers to a candidate unless the communication contains express advocacy or republished campaign materials.  Agenda Doc. at 1.  While this proposal is made in the limited context of spending that would tally against the party coordinated spending limits, it is an approach to the concept of “coordination” that is invalid and discredited ….

As the Supreme Court has said, “the line between express advocacy and other types of election-influencing expression is, for Congress’ purposes, functionally meaningless.” McConnell v. FEC, 540 U.S. 93, 217 (2003). By using a “functionally meaningless” standard to draw the line between coordinated spending and independent spending (even if, in the first instance, just for parties), the Commission would be opening the door to the general evisceration of the coordination standard of the law.

In today’s letter, Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center strongly objected to the Commission making any decision to initiate a rulemaking on these matters now, in light of other, far more pressing, rulemaking obligations the Commission has failed to fulfill. 

According to Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer:

Commissioner Goodman has his priorities wrong.  Before the FEC worries about whether any of the rules on party spending should be relaxed, the Commission ought to first deal with the real campaign finance crises it has created – the flood of secret money into federal elections, and the rampant coordination between candidates and their individual candidate Super PACs. Both problems are caused by the Commission’s current regulations which are deeply flawed.  Fixing those rules should be the first priority of the agency.

According to the letter from the watchdog groups:

The Commission has been derelict in failing to revise its rules for disclosure of electioneering communications and independent expenditures, a failure that has resulted in the lack of disclosure of the source of hundreds of millions of dollars that is being spent to influence federal elections.  This is a major and growing problem, for which the Commission’s inability to muster a majority to even begin a rulemaking is a national scandal.

The letter further stated:

So too, the Commission’s failure to even begin a rulemaking on the agency’s inadequate and overwhelmed coordination rules is an equal dereliction of duty.  While some Commissioners may believe that the many blatant and direct dealings between candidates, their aides, their agents, their former aides, their Super PACs and their Super PAC donors do not technically trigger the existing, flawed coordination rules, few people in this country take seriously the claim that the individual candidate Super PACs established by virtually every presidential candidate are really independent of the candidates who established them.

Although this is now the second presidential cycle in which this problem has been utterly apparent—and which results in the spectacle of presidential candidates raising and benefiting from multi-million dollar contributions—the Commission has yet to undertake a rulemaking to investigate the problem or to consider a solution.  Again, the Commission’s passivity in the face of an obvious crisis at the heart of its jurisdictional responsibility is a national scandal.

Attachments: (1 total)