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May 12, 2004
The FEC Calls For A Punt

Faced with a tidal wave of unchecked money flowing to 527s in this election cycle, the Federal Election Commission response has revealed it to be completely unprepared to deal with the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reforms enacted in the last session of Congress. Now FEC lawyers want even more time to review the law before making decisions on how they apply to the 527s, even though the decision would then come far too late to have any significant effect on this election:

Federal Election Commission lawyers recommended Tuesday that the agency hold off on deciding whether to impose new fund raising and spending limits on tax-exempt groups, which would allow them to spend millions on ads and other activities in this year's presidential race.

FEC lawyers urged the commission to take at least three more months to review the issue. If the FEC approves the recommendation, it would make it unlikely the so-called "soft money" groups would face new regulations before the November election. The commission is expected to consider the proposal Thursday.

We should demand that the FEC act now to clarify the rules for 527s. The FEC has had over a year to examine these issues; in fact, it's hard to imagine what else the FEC lawyers have been studying, except for the new campaign-finance reform law in the intervening period. A three-month extension does nothing except ensure that the laws will not apply to this electoral cycle, when it will most affect the people who supported and approved the law in the first place.

Make no mistake: McCain-Feingold infringes on free speech and sets up extraordinarily complicated structures ostensibly to keep money from flowing to politicians up for election, but in reality only forces the money to hide itself further from public view. Rather than allow sunlight into the election process, the new laws encourage the creation of 527s where people can stuff tons of money with no limit and no accountability, especially if the FEC does nothing to include them in the laws' oversight. In other words, it's bad law, and the only way it can be improved at all is if the FEC takes some action now.

Waiting until the next election cycle -- 2006 -- only puts off the realization of how restrictive and poorly written these laws really are, and unfortunately for this cycle creates even less accountability and more game-playing than existed pre-reform. The FEC should make decisions now on implementation to reduce some of the worst effects of the law until wiser heads prevail and eventually rescind it altogether.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 12, 2004 6:15 AM

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