Before the House Committee on House Administration
United States Congress
Oversight Hearing on the Federal Election Commission
and the 527 Rulemaking Process
Testimony of Chairman Bradley A. Smith
May 20, 2004
1. Court cases and Commission precedent require that groups make $1,000 in expenditures or receive $1,000 in contributions before they must become a political committee. “Expenditure” is interpreted to require “express advocacy.”
- Nothing in BCRA alters the definition of “political committee” or “expenditure” as applied to independent non-party groups.
- Nothing in McConnell v. FEC alters the definition of “political Committee” or “expenditure” as applied to independent non-party groups.
2. Statements by supporters and opponents of BCRA show they understood that independent non-party groups that did not engage in express advocacy would not be subject to most of BCRA’s additional restrictions. BCRA was nonetheless an acceptable compromise for them.
3. During the Commission’s BCRA rulemakings, not a single commenter told us the interpretation of “expenditure” or “political committee” needed to be changed to comply with BCRA.
4. The Supreme Court in McConnell did not rule on whether independent non-party groups must become political committees, on whether PASO was an acceptable standard for non-party committees, or on whether engaging in federal election activity (FEA) made a group a political committee, because BCRA does not apply any of these concepts to non-party groups and so that question was not before the Court.
5. The Commission may not exceed the jurisdiction Congress provides it. As Congress amends a law utilizing existing definitions, it appears that the Commission may not have discretion to then revise the definition of “political committee” and “expenditure” without further Congressional action.
6. While the Commission may have discretion to revise its allocation rules, that should only occur after sufficient study and analysis so that the resulting rule can survive the inevitable court challenge.