It’s been a busy week in the world of campaign finance. The FEC’s newly announced 527 agreements have (quite appropriately) dominated the discussion. But that’s not the only thing the FEC did this week; yesterday’s open meeting was chock full of new developments.
-honoring the FEC’s 10-, 20-, and 30-year veterans;
-electing next year’s officers (Chairman: Lenhard, Vice Chairman: Mason); and
-establishing their meeting dates (.pdf) for the first quarter of 2007;
The Commission got to the most exciting development of the day, its discussion of AO 2006-33. The opinion came in response to an advisory opinion request submitted by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). CCP had previously criticized the Office of General Counsel’s initial draft and had submitted comments in favor of an alternative draft submitted by Commissioner von Spakovsky. We are happy to report that the Commission voted 4-2 in favor of allowing NAR to proceed with their proposed fundraising plan. Chairman Toner and Commissioner Mason supported the reasoning of Commissioner von Spakovsky’s alternative draft. The fourth vote came from Vice Chairman Lenhard, who supported the result on different grounds. While we believe that Commissioner von Spakovsky’s draft offers the best grounds for deciding the matter, CCP is very pleased that the Commission was able to agree on the proper outcome.
Also adopted at the meeting (6-0) was a policy statement (.pdf) concerning “purpose of disbursement” entries for reports filed with the Commission. People who file campaign finance reports with the Commission are required to itemize certain disbursements. The new policy statement provides non-exhaustive lists of descriptive terms that “provide sufficient detail” or which “generally lack sufficient detail” (e.g., “Consultant-Legal” is acceptable, while simply “Consultant” lacks sufficient detail). These lists had previously been circulated only within the Commission, which, as Commissioner Weintraub observed, led some to feel that the Commission was “playing ‘gotcha'” with reporting parties.
Finally, there was a demonstration of a new Advisory Opinion search engine. For people who have to search through AO’s, this is going to be a big improvement on the current system. The new system will pull up the AO’s in PDF format on a split screen, with links to all related documents (AOR, comments, etc.) on the left hand side of the screen. Once an AO has been pulled up, the reader can get a list of all later AO’s that have cited to it, effectively allowing the reader to “Shepardize” advisory opinions. The search function itself promises to be more robust, allowing for Boolean searches, wildcard characters, and searches by requestor’s name. The new search engine is scheduled to go live in February.
More information on the meeting is available in Roll Call ($) or BNA Money & Politics ($). The truly dedicated (or those without subscriptions to the aforementioned services) can listen to the audio, available on the Commission’s website.