Watchdogs Urge FEC to Reject Democratic Governors Association Proposal to Violate Soft Money Ban


Late yesterday, the Campaign Legal Center, joined by Democracy 21, filed comments with the Federal Election Commission urging the agency to reject a request by the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) for permission to fund federal election activity with money raised outside federal contribution limits (i.e., “soft money”), which would clearly violate the McCain-Feingold Law soft money ban.

Under the soft money ban, state party committees, as well as any “association or similar group of candidates for State or local office or of individuals holding State or local office” must use funds raised under federal contribution limits to pay for federal election activity—defined in the law to include voter registration, get-out-the-vote (“GOTV”) activities, voter identification and ads that promote, attack, support or oppose federal candidates. The DGA along with Jobs and Opportunity (J&O), an organization under the full control of the DGA, submitted Advisory Opinion Request (AOR) 2013-4 to the FEC asking if they could pay for federal election activity with unlimited soft money.

The Legal Center and Democracy 21 emphasized to the FEC that DGA is an association of state officeholders, so paying for the proposed activities with nonfederal funds would clearly violate the plain language of the statute. The watchdogs reminded the Commission that the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia held in Shays v. FEC that the Commission lacks the authority to create exemptions from the federal election activity soft money restrictions for associations of state candidates and officeholders. Further the comments point out that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the soft money ban in McConnell v. FEC.

“The statute anticipates exactly this type of attempted circumvention of the law and makes it abundantly clear that federal election activity must be funded using money raised under federal contribution limits,” said Paul S. Ryan, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel. “This request is a Trojan Horse, but those sending it are clearly seeking willing accomplices inside the walls of the FEC.”

To read the comments filed by the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, click here.