The Huffington Post

FEC Does it Again: Permits Large Contribution to National Parties that are Prohibited by Campaign Finance Law

By: Fred Wertheimer

The FEC did it again last week.

The agency voted 4 to 2 to permit the DNC and the RNC to receive large contributions that are prohibited by the Federal Election Campaign Act.

For nearly forty years, everyone, including the FEC itself, has recognized that the DNC and the RNC have been subject to a statutory federal contribution limit. That limit is now $32,400 per donor per year.

Congress established the limit to prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption.

Last week, however, Democratic Commissioner Ann Ravel joined with the three Republican Commissioners to magically find that the DNC and the RNC could now each have two committees that could accept two $32,400 contributions per year from a single donor.

Thus, the DNC and the RNC each can now raise $64,800 annually from a single donor.

Commissioner Ravel and the three Republican Commissioners joined a long line of past FEC Commissioners who also decided that they could override Congress and write their own campaign finance laws.

FEC Commissioners have rewritten the nation’s campaign finance laws before with enormously damaging consequences.

In regulations the agency issued in 1990, FEC Commissioners voted to permit unlimited “soft money” contributions to the national parties, ostensibly for non-federal purposes. But in reality, this money was improperly spent to influence federal elections.

It took 12 years, a $500 million national scandal, a new law and a Supreme Court decision to ban soft money and restore the national party contribution limit that had been enacted by Congress.

The Supreme Court in the 2003 McConnell case found that the FEC’s “soft money” regulations “permitted more than Congress, in enacting FECA, had ever intended” and “invited widespread circumvention” of the party contribution limit.

In other words, the Supreme Court found that Congress neither contemplated nor authorized the soft money system. It was a pure creation of the FEC.

Last week, in the words of baseball legend Yogi Berra, “It was déjà vu all over again.”

Four FEC Commissioners voted to double the $32,400 statutory limit on the amount that an individual could give annually to the DNC and the RNC.

These four Commissioners voted to permit campaign contributions to the DNC and RNC that once again were neither contemplated nor authorized by Congress. This once again was a pure creation of the FEC.

Under this decision, the wealthiest individuals in America each can now give more than a quarter of a million dollars to the DNC and the RNC in a presidential election cycle. A married couple can give more than a half million dollars to the DNC and the RNC in the same period.

The campaign finance laws, however, do not allow the FEC to create two committees for the DNC and RNC, each of which can accept a separate annual contribution of $32,400 per donor.

Under the theory of the FEC’s decision, there is nothing to prevent the DNC or the RNC from creating three, four or five committees, or more, with each of these committees permitted to accept $32,400 per year from the same donor.

This action is not a sign that “gridlock” is breaking at the agency, as some have claimed.

Rather it is simply a case of a Democratic Commissioner joining with three Republican Commissioners to permit illegal contributions in order to give cover to the national parties to raise more large contributions from wealthy individuals.

Four FEC Commissioners last week provided yet another example of the urgent need to replace the FEC with a real campaign enforcement and oversight agency.