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Watchdog Groups Urge FEC to Reject Request by Reid’s Son

Four campaign finance watchdog groups are urging the Federal Election Commission to reject Rory Reid’s request that he simultaneously be allowed to raise soft money for the Nevada state Democratic Party while also raising funds for his father, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

In an unrelated development, the FEC is prepared this week to lay out in more detail exactly what federal lawmakers and candidates can and cannot do with regard to participating in state and local fundraising activities.

Reid, a recently elected Clark County Commissioner in Nevada, wrote to the FEC last month asking if he can continue to raise nonfederal funds for the state Democratic Party even though he has raised money for his father in the past and would like to continue to do so.

But Common Cause attorney Donald Simon, noting that Sen. Reid is a candidate for re-election in 2004 and that Rory Reid will be authorized to raise hard money for Sen. Reid, has asked the FEC to limit the younger Reid’s activities.

“Under these circumstances, we urge the Commission to find that Rory Reid acts as an agent of Senator Reid for all political fundraising purposes, and thus may not solicit non-federal funds for the state party,” Simon wrote in a recent two-page letter to the FEC on behalf of both Common Cause and Democracy 21.

Continued Simon: “This conclusion should be reached on the totality of circumstances presented in this specific case, and not on the basis of any one fact alone — such as, for instance, the father-son relationship between Rory Reid and Senator Reid.”

Larry Noble and Paul Sanford, both of the Center for Responsive Politics, also say the FEC should prohibit Rory Reid from raising soft-money funds for his state party committee if he is also raising federal funds for his father.

But Noble and Sanford, both former FEC employees, contend the restriction would be only a “modest limitation” on Reid’s fundraising.

“This interpretation would have only a minimal impact on Mr. Reid’s fundraising activities,” they wrote. “He would not be precluded from raising federal funds for any party committee in Nevada, nor would he be precluded from raising nonfederal funds for a party committee in a state other than Nevada.”

Glen Shor, associate legal counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, also asked the FEC to rule that Reid’s various activities would result in him being an “agent” of Sen. Reid and thus restrict him from raising nonfederal funds in Nevada.

Moreover, Shor urged the campaign watchdog agency to closely examine the relationships between lawmakers and their children in the fundraising arena.

‘The Commission may understandably desire expressly to reject the notion that being a child of a Federal officeholder or candidate by itself renders one an ‘agent’ under [the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act],” Shor wrote.

But Shor warned that desire should “neither prevent” the agency from finding that Rory Reid is an agent in this specific case, nor should it “dissuade it from taking a hard look at extensive soft money fundraising by children of Federal officeholders for indications of agency.”

Meanwhile, the FEC is prepared to vote Thursday on a draft advisory opinion for Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and others that better spells out what state fundraising activities federal lawmakers can partake in.

The draft, written by the FEC general counsel’s office, states that federal candidates and officeholders may in fact solicit and direct donations to state and local candidates, either orally or in writing.

However, they may not ask for amounts in excess of the federal limits of $2,000 per individual and $5,000 per political action committee, nor may they participate in “general solicitations” that do not request specific amounts.

The draft opinion goes on to state that lawmakers or federal candidates will not have to worry about violating the campaign finance law if they ask for a donation that is federally permissible but the donor then responds with a contribution in excess of those limits.

The draft goes on to state that a House Member or federal candidate may attend a soft-money fundraising event — or speak at one — and that mere attendance would not constitute a violation of BCRA, but publicity for such events is more complicated.

Specifically, the draft states that if the federal candidate consents to having his name or likeness in event publicity and that publicity contains solicitations, then there must be a statement limiting the solicitation to federally permissible hard-money donations.

The FEC’s six commissioners will consider the draft advisory opinion at their open meeting at 10 a.m. Thursday.

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