“FEC Makes the Right Decision on 527s”
PRESS RELEASE: May 31, 2006
Bradley A. Smith (614) 236-6317
Arlington, Va. – “Today the FEC wisely decided to stand by its decision not to issue unprecedented regulations that would turn thousands of citizens organizations into highly regulated ‘political committees,’” said Bradley A. Smith, former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission and Senior Advisor to the Center for Competitive Politics (“CCP”). Smith was commenting on the FEC’s decision to rewrite the explanation for its bipartisan 2004 decision not to assert jurisdiction over all so-called “527” organizations, rather than draft new rules vastly expanding the scope of federal regulation. The FEC’s announcement was in response to the March 29, 2006 order of U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, denying the requests of plaintiffs Christopher Shays and Martin Meehan, and Bush-Cheney 2004, that the court order the FEC to promulgate a new rule, but also ordering the FEC to better explain its reasoning for not regulating all 527s.
“The FEC’s original decision not to treat all 527 organizations as political committees was correct,” said Smith, noting that scholars such as University of Minnesota Law Associate Dean Guy-Uriel Charles have reached the same conclusion. “The Commission now just needs to better explain why 527 organizations were not reached by BCRA, which should be easy to do. BCRA opponents and sponsors alike agreed at the time that BCRA would create a vacuum to be filled by outside organizations,” Smith said.
“Congress is right now actively considering 527 proposals for a reason” added Smith, who also teaches law at Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio, and is of counsel to Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, “This is because the independent activity of 527 organizations is not illegal – not because the FEC has fallen down on the job.” In its opinion in McConnell v. FEC, upholding the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, the Supreme Court rejected the notion that the law regulated all 527s, writing, “BCRA imposes numerous restrictions on the fundraising abilities of political parties, of which the soft-money ban is only the most prominent. Interest groups, however, remain free to raise soft money to fund voter registration, GOTV activities, mailings, and broadcast advertising (other than electioneering communications).” 540 U.S. 93, 187-188 (2003)(emphasis added). No one should have been surprised that this is precisely what happened in the election cycle of 2004.
The Center for Competitive Politics is a non-profit organization founded in 2005 by Smith and Stephen M. Hoersting, a campaign finance attorney and former General Counsel to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. CCP’s mission, through legal briefs, studies, historical and constitutional analyses, and media communication, is to educate the public on the actual effects of money in politics, and the results of a more free and competitive electoral process.
The FEC’s announcement is available at http://www.fec.gov/press/press2006/20060531shays.html