Election officials decided Thursday to stand by a rule allowing the president and members of Congress to attend state party fundraisers where "soft money" (search) is raised, even though they cannot raise the big donations for themselves.

A judge last September ordered the Federal Election Commission to either abandon the rule or write a better justification for it than it had.

At issue was the commission's interpretation of a 2002 law banning national party committees and federal candidates and officeholders from raising corporate, union and unlimited donations known as soft money. The law's sponsors argued the FEC created a loophole by allowing federal officials to give speeches at state parties' soft-money events.

The commission contends the law allows the president, vice president, members of Congress and candidates for those jobs to give speeches and serve as featured guests at the state party fundraisers, regardless of the type of money raised at them.

It stood by that interpretation Thursday. A majority of the commission's six members said they didn't think it was the FEC's job or the intent of Congress to ban federal officials from state party fundraisers, or police what they say at them. The FEC voted to adopt a new written explanation of the rule reflecting the commission's position.