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Court: FEC Must Clarify Ad Coordinating Rules

A federal judge on Wednesday ordered the Federal Election Commission to draw up new guidelines for how candidates can coordinate television and radio ad buys with other committees.

Lawyers for Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and former Rep. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.), who brought the case against the agency, said the judge’s decision to throw out “coordinated communication” demands the commission’s immediate attention. Only months away from the first 2008 presidential primaries, critics called the still-opaque guidance “inexcusable.”

“It is now more than five years since the McCain-Feingold law took effect,” said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, referring to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. “The FEC still has not managed to issue a legal regulation to implement one of the key provisions of the law that prevents illegal coordination between candidates and third-party spenders.”

Wertheimer added: “It is essential for the FEC to move quickly to initiate a new rulemaking proceeding so that the country can have a proper and legal coordination regulation in place for the 2008 elections.”

The Campaign Legal Center’s J. Gerald Hebert praised the court’s decision to step in, arguing that the ruling is simply the latest in a long list of reasons why the FEC should be overhauled.

“There is no reason why Members of Congress should be forced to repeatedly sue the FEC in order to make the agency implement the laws passed by Congress,” Hebert blogged Wednesday afternoon. “This is not just a case of incompetence but rather the inherent problem with the structure of the Commission itself … the Commission must be replaced by one that makes paramount the interests of the nation and its citizens.”

— Matthew Murray

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