Watchdogs Urge FEC to Reject Democratic & Republican Parties’ Request to Use “Recount Funds” as Slush Funds


Today, the Campaign Legal Center, joined by Democracy 21, filed comments with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in response to an Advisory Opinion Request (AOR) 2013-10, in which both the Democratic and Republican parties seek to use their segregated “recount funds” to pay for office building expenses and in effect double their federal contribution limits.

The AOR submitted on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) seeks permission to build upon an existing regulatory loophole allowing parties to raise “recount funds” under separate contribution limits, to use such “recount funds” to pay for “office building expenses,” which of course have nothing at all to do with recounts. In short, the parties seek permission to effectively double their contribution limits and convert “recount funds” into general purpose slush funds.

“The parties are asking the FEC to create a new soft money system, effectively doubling their contribution limits by regulatory sleight of hand. Their request is outrageous and should be rejected by the Commission,” said Paul S. Ryan, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel. “The parties shamelessly seek to use an ill-conceived FEC-created loophole allowing parties to raise ‘recount funds’ under a separate contribution limit to now pay for ‘office building’ expenses that have nothing to do with recounts. The parties’ request is all the more audacious considering that Congress explicitly outlawed separate “office building” accounts in 2002, when it dismantled the corrupt soft money system.”

An old “office building” exemption from the statutory definition of “contribution” gave birth to the “soft money” system in the late 1970s, which grew and grew with the FEC’s support, until unlimited soft money accounted for more than 40% of the funds raised and spent by national parties in 2000. Congress dismantled the soft money system in 2002 by passing the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act and, in doing so, explicitly repealed the “office facility” exemption. The parties are now asking the FEC to recreate the exemption, based on “recount fund” regulations and advisory opinions having nothing to do with office building expenses.

The comments filed by the Legal Center and Democracy 21 today strongly criticize the Commission’s current recount regulations, which in defiance of logic take the position that recount activities are not “for the purpose of influencing” federal elections, even though they are “in connection with” elections.

The groups urge the Commission to reject the parties’ request in this AOR and further urge the Commission to initiate a rulemaking proceeding to reconsider the severely flawed recount regulations.

To read the comments, click here.