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Stop Flake?

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is still awaiting word from the Federal Election Commission on whether he may raise soft money through a special ballot initiative committee for the purpose of promoting a referendum to repeal part of Arizona’s Clean Elections law. [IMGCAP(1)]

Some campaign finance observers have speculated that such an effort could help Flake’s statewide name recognition if he chooses to challenge Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2004. But several campaign watchdog groups dove into the controversy this month with letters urging the FEC to deny Flake’s request.

Larry Noble and Paul Sanford of the Center for Responsive Politics said such proposed activities would violate campaign law. They said the committee was directly established by Flake, a federal lawmaker, and therefore affiliated with him, even though he stepped down as the group’s chairman March 21.

Noble and Sanford also note that the committee in question, Stop Taxpayer Money for Politicians, plans to make prohibited electioneering communications and coordinated communications.

Other groups opposing Flake’s plan include the Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center.

Two-Line Script. Lawmakers might want to memorize this phrase now: “I’m only asking for up to $2,000 from individuals. I’m not asking for corporate, labor or minor funds.”

That’s the oral disclaimer the FEC approved last week that will ensure that federal officeholders and candidates participating in state and local fundraising activities won’t run afoul of the law. They may also use a similar written disclaimer if their names appear in written solicitations for a state or local committee.

Those and other answers to the vexing questions of just how federal lawmakers can participate in state and local fundraising activities were hashed out in an intense open meeting of the FEC last week. The new guidelines came in response to an advisory opinion request from Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and others.

The FEC said candidates can solicit donations on behalf of state and local candidates, orally and in writing, if they don’t ask for funds in excess of federal limits.

The FEC was less clear on just how the new law applies to every single situation. For instance, if Cantor’s name were to appear on a written fundraising solicitation as a member of a state candidate’s “host committee,” he must include a disclaimer about federal limits on contributions. But the FEC was unable to agree on how to handle the solicitation if Cantor was listed only as an “honorary chairperson.”

Bon Appétit. The Rayburn Building cafeteria will close its food line and grill service today for renovation.

During the closure, scheduled through January 2004, the North End food service will offer a limited selection of hot food from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

— Amy Keller and Jennifer Yachnin

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