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Opinion: Making tribes play by the rules -- What rules?

"In the wake of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandals, some type of lobbying reform appears to be a given. Unfortunately, the issue seems likely to get tangled up in �campaign finance reform.� The issues should not be conflated.

There are at least two likely targets of campaign finance reform masquerading as lobbying reform. One is the American Indian tribe loophole, which allows tribes to bypass the aggregate donation limits to federal candidates that individuals have to abide by, and to use general tribal funds to do it. The other has to do with the free-spending organizations known as 527s.

The hook for regulating tribes and 527s is the claim that they ought to �play by the same rules as everyone else.� Really? Just what rules would those be? The rules that apply to The New York Times and The Washington Post, which can endorse any candidate they want and spend unlimited corporate sums to promote that candidate? Well, nobody means that. They mean the �same rules� that apply to others who are not �press� � if we can agree on who the �press� is, which is another issue.

In reality, there is no one set of rules under which �everyone plays.�

It is said that for tribes to �play by the same rules,� they should have the same aggregate limit on giving as individuals do � $101,400 over a two-year cycle. But PACs have no aggregate limit on their giving. So if tribes were subjected to an aggregate cap, who would be failing to play by the same rules, tribes or PACs?"

Get the Story:
Bradley A. Smith: Play by the Same Rules? What Rules? (Roll Call 2/9)

FEC Advisory:
Indian Tribes (February 2, 2006)

Federal Elections Commission Opinions:
Advisory Opinion 1999-32 (January 28, 2000) | Advisory Opinion 2000-05 (May 15, 2000) | Advisory Opinion 2005-01 (March 14, 2005)

More Advisory Opinion 2005-01 Documents:
Advisory Opinion Draft A and Draft B | Tribe's Request for Advisory Opinion

Relevant Links:
Federal Election Commission -
PoliticalMoneyLine -
Center for Responsive Politics -

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