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FEC Actions

The Federal Election Commission adopted new rules last week allowing Members of Congress to be as deeply involved with their leadership PACs as they wish — without worrying that the committees will be deemed to be affiliated with their re-election efforts.

GOP Commissioner Michael Toner said the move would have a “deregulatory impact” and create “a lot more clarity for Members on both sides of the aisle.”

The FEC — which approved the new regulations 5-1, with only Democrat Ellen Weintraub dissenting — stated that any spending by a lawmaker’s leadership PAC that benefits his or her own re-election will be treated as an “in-kind” contribution to the campaign.

The watchdog agency also agreed to make minor changes to its existing travel rules. Commissioners agreed that corporations, labor unions and others who fly campaigning lawmakers aboard their private aircraft should be reimbursed at the rate of a first-class commercial airline ticket if they are flying to a destination that has such commercial service.

If lawmakers are being flown to rural areas without commercial service, the campaigns will be required to reimburse those supplying the aircraft at the equivalent full charter rate.

Campaigns also will have a little more leeway for last minute changes to their itineraries, as commissioners agreed to a seven-day reimbursement window after the trip. Campaigns previously were required to pre-pay such flights.

GAO Reports on GAO. The General Accounting Office has released its annual performance report. Congress’ investigative arm testified before 189 committee panels, made 2,175 recommendations and issued 97 percent of its reports on the day promised. The agency’s goal for fiscal 2003 was 98 percent, the only one of seven performance measures not met. GAO also received a clean opinion from independent auditors on its financial statements.

“While the value of many of our accomplishments this past year, could not be measured in dollars, many could. In that regard, we helped the Congress and government leaders achieve a total of $35.4 billion in financial benefits — a $78 return on every dollar that we spent,” Comptroller General David Walker said in a letter accompanying the report.

Tell Us the Truth. To raise awareness of media consolidation and fair trade issues, acclaimed activist musicians Billy Bragg, Tom Morello, Steve Earle, Boots Riley and Lester Chambers will perform tonight at the 9:30 Club as part of the “Tell Us The Truth” concert tour.

Sponsored by various unions, environmental, religious and media reform groups, including Common Cause and the AFL-CIO, the 13-city tour was developed to “emphasize corporate domination of the public discourse and promote activism in the recent history,” according to a release.

— Amy Keller, Suzanne Nelson and John McArdle

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