WASHINGTON — Federal election officials said Friday that members of Congress helping their parties finance redistricting fights can raise soft money, the unlimited corporate and union cash that a 2002 law bans them from collecting for their campaigns.
The Federal Election Commission unanimously granted the National Democratic Redistricting Trust's request to let lawmakers raise unlimited contributions and money from corporations and unions for the legal battles likely to occur as congressional district boundaries are redrawn after this year's census.
Which voters are included in a district can be crucial to whether a Democrat or Republican gets elected to represent it.
The FEC agreed with the trust that soft money fundraising by lawmakers for redistricting isn't banned under the law because redistricting isn't done in connection with an election. Campaign finance watchdogs argued the commission should reject the request.
The trust contends there would be no risk of corruption in lawmakers raising unlimited donations for redistricting because the money wouldn't be used for elections.
In its decision, the FEC noted that the trust is run by private citizens, not members of Congress.
"Though the trust may work in concert with like-minded individuals, organizations and political committees that will attempt to influence elections directly, the trust itself will not fund direct attempts to influence elections," the commission wrote.
The FEC's ruling comes as the Republican National Committee seeks a Supreme Court decision on its bid to raise soft money for various activities including state elections, legal costs and other expenses it says have nothing to do with federal elections.
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