Forget about “The Producers” or “Les Miserables.” In the post-McCain-Feingold era, the Federal Election Commission’s compliance seminars are the hottest ticket in town. [IMGCAP(1)]
The watchdog agency’s March 12-13 conference for House and Senate campaigns and political party committees is completely sold out, and that’s even after the FEC upped the number of attendees from 125 to 170.
The FEC is encouraging folks who can’t get into that session to consider trekking to Boston, Chicago or San Diego later this year to attend conferences on the same topics. The Beantown conference, in fact, was originally supposed to focus on how the new law affects trade associations, but the agency opted to make that conference focus on parties and candidates because of demand.
FEC spokesman Bob Biersack said the agency is also considering adding some additional regional conferences at different spots around the country next year, but no plans have been finalized.
Transit Benefit. Effective March 1, the House has increased the subsidized fare in transit benefit program for staffers from $65 to $100 per month. The money came in the legislative branch portion of the fiscal 2003 omnibus spending bill passed last month.
In a “Dear Colleague” letter, House Administration Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) and ranking member John Larson (D-Conn.) informed offices that the deadline for submitting participation forms is the eighth day of each month. (Because March 8 is a Saturday, this month’s deadline is Friday.)
Participation — and the amount of the actual benefit — is at the discretion of the employing office, and the funds are taken out of Members’ Representational Allowances (which were increased to offset the new benefit allowance).
Transit benefit participants cannot maintain a House-issued parking permit, and the amount of requested benefit may not exceed an employee’s actual monthly public transportation commuting costs. Also, the current $35 pre-tax deduction will be eliminated. Updated forms and information can be found on HouseNet or by calling (202) 224-8000.
Thoroughfares Closed. Construction of the Capitol Visitor Center has forced the closure of the third-floor and basement corridors of the Capitol between the House and Senate until 2005. The third-floor closing will begin March 17, and the tunnel will be closed starting March 31. The second-floor walkway is already closed, according to CVC spokesman Tom Fontana.
Capitol Tours. To allow offices greater flexibility when scheduling group tours of the Capitol, the Capitol Guide Service will start booking tour reservations up to six months in advance. Previously, offices could only schedule group tours three months in advance.
—Amy Keller and Suzanne Nelson