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Wertheimer Calls New FEC Coordination Rules ‘Contrary to Law’

In an interview with BNA (subscription required), campaign finance reformer Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21 went on the offensive against the FEC’s new coordination rules finalized last week, charging that it “is different from the old regulation in name only — and…is yet again is contrary to law.” The new standard determines what type of work might fall under funding regulations for ads coordinated with campaigns; Wertheimer called it far too narrow. He also argued that the time frame in which the regulations are in effect effectively opens up a “donut hole” for coordination to still take place:

“Under the new FEC regulation, a Representative or Senator, or other congressional candidate, will be able to sit down with a corporate executive, draft an ad promoting his or her campaign and have the executive’s corporation pay for broadcasting the ad when and where the candidate wants—and none of this constitutes ‘coordination’ in the view of the FEC, so long as the ad is run after the candidate’s primary and more than 90 days before the election, and does not expressly say ‘vote for’ the candidate or its functional equivalent,” Wertheimer’s statement said. “The FEC’s regulation, in short, defies common sense.” [...]

The effect of the FEC rule is to leave a “donut hole” for coordination in congressional campaigns that “even the agency recognizes is inappropriate and impermissible for presidential elections,” Wertheimer said. “That distinction makes no sense and there is no legal rationale for authorizing coordination in congressional races that is made illegal in presidential races.”

Wertheimer stopped short of indicating that Democracy 21 would file a legal challenge, telling BNA that the group is keeping its options open. The new FEC rule won’t take effect until after the current election cycle, but it represents yet another setback for campaign finance groups in regulating election spending in the post-Citizens United world.

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