The Federal Election Commission on Thursday decided, in a 4-2 vote, to uphold its previous regulation that allows federal officeholders to speak at state party fundraising events where soft money is raised without restrictions.
The agency’s previous rulemaking had been struck down by a federal judge in a suit brought by sponsors of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.
[IMGCAP(1)]The decision in that case, Shays v. FEC, offered the agency one of two options regarding the regulation: rewrite it to better reflect BCRA’s ban on federal officeholders raising soft money, or provide better legal justification. The FEC on Thursday decided to do the latter, voting to uphold its previous regulation while issuing a revised “explanation and justification.”
Much of the debate focused on the idea that by the time a state party fundraising event takes place, the “pitch” for contributions has already occurred, in the form of the invitation. Under this reasoning, federal officeholders would not have much occasion to make a direct plea for soft money.
“People have to pay to go in the first place,” said Republican Commissioner Michael Toner. “The money has already been collected.”
That Other Big Judicial Battle. The longstanding fight between business interests and trial lawyers over tort reform has reached new heights, at least where money is concerned.
A new study of spending on state Supreme Court races found that pro-business and pro-trial lawyer groups spent a combined $24.4 million during the 2004 election cycle, “obliterating” the previous record of $10.6 million set in the 2000 cycle. The study was sponsored by the watchdog group Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.
Nine individual states that elect their Supreme Court justices also broke fundraising records in the 2004 cycle. And two candidates in a single race in Illinois raised a combined $9.3 million — more than candidates in 18 of last year’s Senate races. For the first time since such records have been tracked, funding by business groups outpaced that of lawyers, the report found.