WASHINGTON – Federal Election Commission (search) lawyers proposed Friday that presidential campaigns be allowed to use limited individual donations to cover the costs of recounts like the one that occurred in Florida in 2000.
The lawyers' recommendation did not address the broader question of whether the campaigns could set up separate funds to collect unlimited donations to help pay for recounts. The commission is expected to consider the lawyers' recommendation next week.
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's (search) campaign asked the FEC this month whether it could pay recount expenses from its legal and accounting fund, which is financed with limited donations from individuals. If that fund could not be used, the Kerry campaign asked the FEC to specify if any restrictions would pertain to fund-raising for recount expenses.
President Bush's (search) campaign urged the commission to allow the campaigns to collect unlimited individual donations to pay recount costs, as Bush and Democrat Al Gore (search) were permitted to do in Florida in 2000. They were not allowed to accept corporate or union money.
Bush voluntarily limited his recount donations to $5,000 each and raised nearly $14 million for the Florida recount. Gore took unlimited donations and spent about $3.2 million on the recount.
A major new campaign finance law has taken effect since the 2000 election, barring federal candidates from raising corporate, union or unlimited donations known as soft money for election costs. They can collect only limited contributions from individuals for their campaigns.
The FEC has not said whether the soft-money ban applies to recounts. Campaign finance watchdog groups argue that it does.
Bush's legal compliance fund had $6 million on hand as September began, compared with $3.4 million for Kerry's.