Armageddon Coming?

Posted February 27, 2004 at 5:08pm

America Coming Together, a Democratic-leaning 527 group, withdrew its request last week for an advisory opinion from the Federal Election Commission.

[IMGCAP(1)]The group, which contends it is pursuing legal avenues to fund massive get-out-the-vote and voter-registration activities intended to help defeat President Bush, had asked the FEC for advice on how the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act applied to its planned activities for the 2004 campaign cycle. ACT has come under fire from campaign finance reform proponents who allege it is using tax loopholes to circumvent a federal ban on soft money.

ACT had asked the FEC whether it may have both federal and nonfederal accounts, whether it may raise money from corporations and unions without regard to limits, and whether it may allocate costs for its voter-mobilization efforts between federal and nonfederal accounts.

The group withdrew its request about one week after the FEC issued advice to a GOP-led 527 called Americans for a Better Country.

ACT and other 527s could get some additional guidance in coming days, however, as the FEC this week is scheduled to take up a controversial rulemaking on the explosive issue — a process that FEC Commissioner Dave Mason predicted would be “Armageddon.”

The FEC is expected to release a lengthy document today laying out issues it plans to explore in the rulemaking process.

Critics of 527 groups hope the agency cracks down on what they call “shadow parties” that are allowing soft money to flood back into the campaign process.

Numerous nonprofits have raised concerns that the FEC not restrict their ability to communicate with the public via legitimate issue campaigns.

Murderer Sentenced. A D.C. man convicted of murdering a former Capitol Hill intern was sentenced to 35 years in prison last week.

Eric R. Wallace, who pleaded guilty to killing Claude Rashad McCants in October 2002, faced a maximum of 40 years in prison, but friends and loved ones of McCants’ said they were satisfied with the 38-year-old’s sentence.

“I’m happy with the sentencing,” said Donny Williams, a Democratic staffer on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee and former roommate of McCants’. “A million things could go wrong in a case like this.”

McCants, a 25-year-old native of Jackson, Miss., had just wrapped up an internship in Rep. Wayne Gilchrest’s (R-Md.) office when he was stabbed to death in front of his home near the Capitol.

Wallace had been released from custody earlier that day despite a string of assault charges. The tragic case caused such an uproar that in December 2002, the D.C. City Council approved a bill giving courts new power to temporarily commit those found mentally unfit for trial for up to 48 hours while they initiate long-term commitment for such individuals.

— Amy Keller