Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center Challenge Failure of FEC to Adopt Regulations to Implement Restricted Political Party Accounts


Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center sent a letter today to FEC Commissioners challenging the agency’s failure to adopt regulations to implement the restricted national party accounts enacted in December 2014 and warning about the consequences of this failure.

Congress snuck a rider into a session-ending Omnibus Appropriations bill in 2014 that authorized three new separate party accounts for the DNC and RNC. Each account is authorized to receive contributions up to $100,200 per donor, per year, thereby allowing a single donor to give more than $300,000 to these national party committee accounts. The donor can give an additional $33, 400 per year to the party to make campaign related expenditures.

The use of the money in each of these new accounts is restricted: one account is to pay for the presidential nominating conventions, a second account is to pay for the legal costs of election recounts and contests and other legal proceedings and the third account is to pay for the construction, purchase and operation of party headquarter buildings.

None of these funds are authorized to be used for campaign expenses.

The FEC is supposed to administer and formulate policy on the provisions. Yet seventeen months after have the provisions were enacted, the agency has failed to even begin a proceeding to adopt regulation or further define the restricted scope of the new accounts.

“The indefensible failure of the FEC to adopt regulations for the restricted accounts and the widely held view by political operatives that campaign finance laws are not enforced are bound  to result in the misuse of the money in these accounts.” according to Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer. “Already there are published reports that Trump campaign strategists plan to use the restricted accounts for campaign expenditures. History tells us that when you don’t have proper enforcement of laws, you don’t have the laws.”

“The language of the appropriations bill is clear. It’s illegal for the parties to use these mega donations for campaign expenses,” said Paul S. Ryan, Campaign Legal Center Deputy Executive Director. “The FEC should have adopted regulations by now, but even without regulations it’s still the FEC’s job to enforce the restrictions on use of these accounts.”

The letter concluded:

The discussion at last week’s meeting made clear that the Commission has given up on having rules in place for the frenzy of raising and spending the huge donations that are already flowing into these new party accounts. With or without regulations in place, however, it is still the Commission’s ongoing responsibility to ensure that the statutory restrictions on these accounts are followed. Therefore, we urge the Commission to issue interim regulations or otherwise make clear that the statutory limitations on the use of these accounts will be enforced and that no campaign expenditures can be made from these accounts.   

To read the letter: click here.