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August 24, 2005




Washington - The Federal Election Commission is seeking comments on proposed changes to its rule defining “electioneering communications” under the Federal Election Campaign Act.  This rulemaking was prompted by the recent decision of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in Shays v. FEC.

Electioneering communications are broadcast, cable or satellite communications that refer to a clearly identified candidate for Federal office, are publicly distributed within 60 days before a general election or 30 days before a primary election, and are targeted to the relevant electorate.  Such communications carry certain reporting obligations and funding restrictions. The proposed changes would modify the definition of “publicly distributed” and also the exemptions to the definition of “electioneering communication.”

In modifying the existing regulations the Commission is considering a range of options:

  • retaining the section 501(c)(3) exemption and the state candidate exemption
  • narrowing the section 501(c)(3) exemption
  • repealing the current exemptions for section 501(c)(3) organizations and state candidates
  • replacing all the current exemptions with a broad new exemption covering all communications that do not promote, support, attack, or oppose a federal candidate

No final decision has been made by the Commission on the issues presented in this rulemaking.  The Notice was published in the Federal Register on August 23, 2005 (70 FR 49508) and can be found at http://www.fec.gov/pdf/nprm/exemption_doc_films/notice_2005-20.pdf.

  Comments are due on September 30, 2005.  A hearing on the proposed rules will be held on October 19, 2005.

All comments must be in writing, must be addressed to Ms. Mai T. Dinh, Assistant General Counsel, and must be submitted in either email, facsimile, or paper form. Email comments must be sent to either ECdef@fec.gov or submitted through the Federal eRegulations Portal at www.regulations.gov.  If the email comments include an attachment, it must be in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) or Microsoft Word (.doc) format.  Faxed comments must be sent to (202) 219-3823, with paper copy follow-up to ensure legibility.  Written comments should be sent to the Federal Election Commission, 999 E Street, NW, Washington DC 20463