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The Federal Election Commission Draws A Clear Line

In a decision certain to receive close scrutiny by those representing potential presidential candidates, the Federal Election Commission has dismissed the allegations made by Stop Hillary PAC against the Super PAC Ready for Hillary, Friends of Hillary and Senator Clinton herself.  The FEC concluded in one part of that decision, that even if Senator Clinton had reviewed and approved of Ready for Hillary’s mailing and bumper sticker, the Super PAC did not have to say in its disclaimer that the communication was “authorized by” Senator Clinton, for she was not yet a candidate.

This finding—that the rules that govern “candidates” do not yet apply to Senator Clinton or individuals who are “testing the waters”—is more significant when one moves from the question of whether the “authorized by” disclaimer must go on a bumper sticker to the question of whether a discussion with the potential candidate is governed by the FEC’s restrictions on “candidates” coordinating with outside spending groups. It is hard to escape the conclusion from reading the FEC’s decision that until the prospective candidate crosses the statutory line and becomes a “candidate” under the law, the coordination rules do not yet apply to that individual. The FEC’s confirmation of this reading of the plain language of the statute will be seen as very good news by many of the individuals who are currently testing the waters for 2016.

© 2020 Covington & Burling LLP


About this Author

Robert Lenhard, Election and political attorney, Covington

Robert Lenhard is a member of the firm’s Election & Political Law practice group and advises corporations, trade associations, not-for-profit organizations, and high-net-worth individuals on compliance with federal and state campaign finance, lobbying, and government ethics laws.

Mr. Lenhard routinely assists clients in establishing and operating federal and state PACs, compliance programs associated with campaign finance and pay-to-play laws; advises advocacy groups and their donors; conducts compliance trainings and audits of federal and state lobbying and...