Sunday, October 08, 2006

Election Commission Alters Rule on Money Used for Recounts

The New York Times
Election Commission Alters Rule on Money Used for Recounts

WASHINGTON, Oct. 4 (AP) — Changing nearly 30 years of election policy, federal regulators said Wednesday that money used to pay for vote recounts and legal challenges was subject to campaign finance restrictions on contributions and expenditures.

The 4-to-2 decision by the Federal Election Commission affects House and Senate candidates as well as state parties. It could be especially significant this year when both political parties are bracing for potential postelection challenges to results in tight Congressional races.

“This is going to make them work a little harder to raise the money,” said Ellen L. Weintraub, a commissioner and a Democrat, who offered a compromise to break a 3-to-3 deadlock. “But it’s doable.”

At issue was whether a 2002 campaign finance law that did away with unrestricted and unlimited giving to the political parties altered regulations adopted in 1977. The decision redefined those regulations.

The commission’s chairman, Michael E. Toner, the commission chairman, and Hans von Spakovsky, a commissioner, both Republicans, voted against the compromise, saying that the campaign finance law applied only to the election, not recounts. Mr. Toner also objected to the timing of the change, noting that it came only five weeks before the Nov. 7 elections.

In making its decision, the commission recognized that recounts were expensive. As a result, the contributions that candidates raise from individuals for their recount accounts will not count against their fund-raising for the election. Under current law, a candidate can receive donations up to $2,100 from an individual for each election.

Now a contributor who had already reached the donation limit with a candidate could contribute also to the recount account.

Similarly, while the state parties would have to abide by the $10,000 contribution limits that apply to them, they would not have to live within limitations on spending for so-called coordinated expenditures with federal candidates.

As before, neither candidates nor state parties will be able to raise money from labor unions, corporations or foreign citizens.