Bush Camp Hits Kerry on 'Soft Money' Donations

President Bush's re-election campaign asked supporters Monday to urge federal officials to crack down on groups spending millions of dollars to promote Democrat John Kerry (search), its second such move in a week.

Campaign chairman Marc Racicot (search) asked recipients in an e-mail to press the Federal Election Commission (search) to approve proposed restrictions on the groups, which are spending "soft money" — corporate, union and unlimited donations — on ads and get-out-the-vote efforts aimed at helping Kerry win the election.

"To make sure that everyone plays by the same rules we need you to tell the commissioners they should force these groups to comply with federal law," Racicot wrote. Supporters could forward an e-mail drafted by the campaign or write their own comments to the FEC.

The campaign and the Republican National Committee (search) last week filed a complaint asking the commission to clear the way for Bush to seek court action to stop the groups' spending.

Many of the Democratic-leaning groups at issue were created after a new campaign finance law barred national party committees from raising soft money and broadly banned the use of soft money in federal elections. Critics call the groups a shadow party because they have taken on types of spending the Democratic Party used to finance with soft money.

The pro-Kerry groups, including MoveOn.org (search) and the Media Fund (search), say their soft-money spending is legal.

The FEC is considering whether such groups should have to register with the commission and accept only limited contributions from individuals rather than unlimited soft money. It plans a two-day hearing next week and a decision next month on the proposed rules.

Several groups, including the Republican-leaning National Right to Life Committee (search), want the FEC to abandon any proposals that would restrict citizen groups' political activities. They contend the proposed rules go beyond the new law and unfairly sweep them in.

Bush spokesman Terry Holt (search) said he had no comment on how the FEC proposals might affect such organizations. The campaign's efforts focus on the pro-Kerry soft-money groups, he said.

Three campaign finance watchdog groups are urging the commission to tailor new restrictions to partisan political groups such as those now spending in the presidential election and leave out nonprofits like the NRLC.

"In trying to resolve too much, too fast, the commission runs the serious risk of resolving too little, too slowly, or indeed, nothing at all," Democracy 21, the Campaign Legal Center and the Center for Responsive (search) Politics wrote Monday.