Mixed FEC Decision on Request to Ease Fundraising Restrictions on Union and Corporate PACs

Alexandria, VA. –  The Federal Election Commission (FEC) issued an advisory opinion today that eases some restrictions, but keeps intact other restrictions, on the ability of union and corporate political action committees (PACs) to raise money.

The FEC ruled that ActBlue, an organization that makes it easier for citizens to contribute to political campaigns, may coordinate with the “Separate Segregated Funds” (SSF) of corporations, labor unions, and other membership organizations to solicit contributions from within the SSF’s “restricted class.”

ActBlue had also requested permission to independently solicit the general public for earmarked contributions to SSFs from outside the “restricted class.”   The FEC ruled that request was “not permissible.”

A corporation’s restricted class is primarily comprised of its shareholders, executives, and employees. The restricted class of unions and other membership organizations is generally defined as that organization’s members.

“The portion of ActBlue’s request that was rejected by the FEC was an innovation that would have strengthened freedom of association,” said Stephen Hoersting, vice president of the Center for Competitive Politics, which filed comments in support of ActBlue. “Citizens should be allowed to support organizations of their choice.”

The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) argued in comments submitted to the FEC that ActBlue should be allowed to serve as a third party conduit that can independently solicit the general public to give money to union or corporate PACs because all solicitations would be made using hard dollars.

CCP’s comments noted that the law “specifically endorses the idea of hard money flowing into SSFs from all sources.”   Moreover, CCP argued that permitting the request would “amplify the ability of citizens to engage in lawful political fundraising activity” and “increase the amount of hard money supported political speech in our political discourse.”