Campaign finance disclosure is an essential mechanism of government accountability—it promotes transparency about the people funding political candidates and attempting to influence our elections.

A recent interim rule passed by the Federal Election Commission (FEC), however, threatens that transparency. Though the rule recognizes the requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), which mandates public disclosure of certain contributions to political campaigns, CREW remains concerned about two deficiencies of the interim rule: first, the rule fails to explicitly adopt the requirements of FECA, and, second, it fails to address the full scope of contributor disclosure.

Instead of clearly adopting FECA’s disclosure obligations in the regulation, the FEC directs readers to recent judicial decisions and to a subsection of a statute on reporting requirements. Not only does this omission of FECA’s explicit obligations make the rule less clear, but the FEC’s failure to echo statutory language also invites claims of lack of fair notice about disclosure requirements. To avoid any uncertainty about reporting obligations and sufficiency for fair notice, the FEC should explicitly adopt FECA’s reporting requirements within its regulation.

The rule also fails to address the scope of contributions covered under FECA. Contrary to a joint-statement recently released by three FEC commissioners, the term “contribution,” as held by the D.C. Circuit Court, refers to any donation intended to influence an election, not just one with the purpose of furthering independent expenditures. The interim rule should explicitly express that the term “contribution” carries a broad definition—neither commissioners nor campaigns should be able to ignore the language of the D.C. Circuit’s ruling in order to conceal the identities of campaign contributors. 

The FEC has an obligation to promote transparency and accountability in campaign finance. We urge them to implement our two suggestions, as well as those we’ve expressed in our previous comments, to foster openness and responsibility from candidates and their campaigns.

Header photo by Pictures of Money under a Creative Commons license

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