FEC Lawyers Propose Soft Money Ban
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Feb. 4) -- In a move heralded by President Bill Clinton and condemned by the Republican National Committee, lawyers at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) have proposed banning "soft money" fund-raising by major political parties.
Under the FEC general counsel's proposal, the national committees of both Democrats and Republicans could no longer take five- and six- figure donations from supporters. This would mean a significant reduction in the money parties use to pay for television ads, administrative expenses and get-out-the-vote drives.
Soft money accounted for $262 million in fund-raising by Democrats and Republicans during the 1996 elections and was central to last year's campaign finance investigations.
Clinton, who along with several lawmakers petitioned the FEC last summer to prohibit soft money, threw his support behind the proposal Tuesday and urged the FEC to approve it.
"I am very pleased that the agency's general counsel has proposed a new rule prohibiting national parties from raising soft money, Clinton said.
"I ask the members of the commission to step up to their responsibility and act, within their legal authority, to end the soft-money system," the president said.
Despite his opposition to soft money, the president has raised millions of dollars in soft money for the Democratic Party. Clinton maintains that Democrats must raise this money to continue to compete with their Republican counterparts.
If the FEC decides to act on the proposal, the question remains if it even has the authority to do so. A bipartisan campaign finance bill
banning soft money is slated for a Senate vote in early March.
The FEC will decide by Feb. 12 if it will put the proposal out for public comment, change it or conduct further study on the matter. No matter what the decision, it could be months before any new rules are issued, and any bans on soft money would surely draw legal challenges.
"They don't have the authority, and it would be unconstitutional," said Cliff May, spokesman for the Republican National Committee, which is opposed to a soft money ban.