WASHINGTON – Wealthy members of Congress can give unlimited amounts of their own money to groups for get-out-the-vote drives even though they are barred from raising big checks for their campaigns or others, election officials said Thursday.
The Federal Election Commission's (search) 5-1 ruling came in response to a request by Sen. Jon Corzine (search), a wealthy New Jersey Democrat and chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Corzine gave more than $2 million to Democratic causes in the 2001-02 election cycle before the nation's campaign finance law barred national party committees and congressional and presidential candidates from raising or spending corporate union and unlimited donations known as soft money.
Corzine asked the FEC whether he could still make big donations to groups conducting voter registration activities despite the law's broad soft-money ban. The FEC said yes — as long as he wasn't giving such big amounts that the organization would be considered financed by him.
While running for the Senate in 2000, Corzine spent $60 million of his own money.
Corzine flirted with running in a special election if Democratic New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey were to resign in the next few weeks. However, the senator has said he plans to remain in Congress for now.
McGreevey, acknowledging a homosexual affair and announcing he was gay, said he will resign as governor in November. New Jersey Republicans and some Democrats have called on him to leave office earlier so that a special election could be held to replace him.