FEC Asks Judge to Stay Funds Ruling

Federal election officials have asked a judge to stay a ruling striking down several government regulations on political fund raising, arguing that rules interpreting the nation's campaign finance law are crucial as the election approaches.

The Federal Election Commission (search) also asked U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly (search) to make it clear that the rules she overturned will remain in effect while the FEC appeals her September decision.

At issue are FEC rules spelling out how the commission interprets a 2002 campaign finance law that bars national party committees and federal candidates from raising corporate, union and unlimited donations and broadly bans the use of such "soft money" in federal elections.

Sponsors of the law, including Reps. Christopher Shays (search), R-Conn., and Martin Meehan (search), D-Mass., accused the commission of opening loopholes in the law and sued to overturn the rules.

The judge agreed and struck down more than a dozen FEC regulations. The decision created some confusion among candidates and campaign strategists; Kollar-Kotelly declined to issue an order blocking the commission from enforcing the rules while it wrote new ones, or to specifically say what if any FEC regulations people should follow in the meantime.

"The lack of regulations explaining these provisions would be particularly disruptive during the weeks remaining before the upcoming federal elections," the commission wrote in a notice filed late Friday with the court.

Campaign finance watchdogs supporting the Shays-Meehan lawsuit argue that the law is clear and political players can simply look to it when planning their activities. Shays and Meehan were expected to file their response to the FEC's stay request Tuesday.

The commission notified Kollar-Kotelly last week that it would appeal her ruling, which directs the commission to write new rules interpreting key sections of the law, such as the extent of the soft money ban and how far candidates and outside groups can go in coordinating political activities.