FEC Lawyers Push for Soft Money Limits

Government lawyers are renewing their push to rein in groups like those spending millions on ads and voter outreach in the presidential race.

At issue is how federal law affects nonparty groups that spend soft money (search) — corporate, union or unlimited donations — in federal elections.

Starting after the 2002 election, this kind of spending has been banned broadly from presidential and congressional races. Also, national party committees and federal candidates cannot solicit such donations.

New outside groups, most pro-Democratic, contend the ban does not apply to them, so they are pouring soft money into ads and get-out-the-vote efforts focused on this year's presidential race. Campaign watchdogs disagree and want the Federal Election Commission (search) to block the spending.

The commission voted in May to put aside the issue for three months. That led Republicans to announce their own soft-money push.

Commission lawyers on Friday released a new proposal to limit a broader range of political groups to the capped, individual donations and make those organizations disclose contributions and spending to the FEC.

The FEC, which includes three Democrats and three Republicans, is expected to consider the proposal Thursday. The rules would not take effect before the Nov. 2 election.

The proposal says that a group whose major purpose is the nomination or election of a federal candidate will be considered a political committee that can accept only limited individual donations and must report to the FEC.