FEC Won’t Impose ‘Soft Money’ Restrictions

WASHINGTON, D.C. Democratic political interest groups can continue to spend millions of dollars on the presidential election after the Federal Election Commission decided Thursday to postpone making a decision for three months on whether to regulate such groups.

Republicans had asked the FEC to place fundraising and spending restrictions on the groups, known as 527s under the Internal Revenue Service’s tax code. But four of the six FEC members voted to table the issue for 90 days.

Democratic FEC commissioner Scott Thomas and Republican Michael Toner wanted to impose the restrictions, which they argued would curb the flow of so-called “soft money” from corporations and unions. Those funds used to go to the national political parties before passage of legislation sponsored by Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russ Feingold, D-Wis.

FEC lawyers this week recommended that the commissioners needed more time to make such an important decision.

In his remarks to Congress on the hearings the FEC held on the Democratic groups, McCain said, “Once in a while, we have a public debate in Washington that serves as a perfect metaphor for the cynical way in which business is sometimes done here. The argument over whether and when the Federal Election Commission should regulate new soft money fundraising groups provides us with one of those moments. In it, we can see how badly our election watchdog has served the public and the urgent need to fix it.”