Federal election regulators have given President Bush and Democratic rival John Kerry (search) another fund-raising option should either of them pursue a recount like Florida's expensive 2000 ballot dispute.

The Federal Election Commission (search) said Thursday the two can use their legal compliance funds (search) to cover any recount costs. Both candidates are raising money for such funds.

The Kerry campaign had asked the FEC whether it could use its legal compliance fund to tide itself over in the early days of any recount.

The campaign stopped short of asking whether it could establish a separate recount fund financed with unlimited individual contributions, as Bush and Democrat Al Gore (search) did in 2000. The Kerry campaign's Marc Elias said it would not explore that question until after the election.

Several commissioners said Bush and Kerry should not draw conclusions one way or the other on whether they could use unlimited individual money for recount costs.

In 2002, Congress passed a law that prohibits and presidential and congressional candidates from raising corporate, union and unlimited donations for election costs, allowing them to collect only limited contributions from individuals and political action committees, which are financed by individual donors.

The commission has not yet said whether that ban on so-called "soft money" affects recount funding. The Bush campaign, in written comments to the FEC on Kerry's request, argued that nothing in the law affects recount fund-raising.

In 2000, Bush voluntarily capped his recount donations at $5,000 each and raised nearly $14 million for the Florida ballot dispute. Gore accepted unlimited contributions for his recount fund and spent about $3.2 million.

As September began, Bush's legal fund had about $6 million in the bank, compared with $3.4 million for Kerry's.