What does the omnibus spending bill have to do with money in politics?
On Monday, House and Senate negotiators released a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year. What does it have to do with money in politics? Plenty.
Here’s a quick list:
- The bill includes $65.8 million for the Federal Election Commission (FEC). That's slightly more than the amount for fiscal year 2013, but down from fiscal year 2010, according to the Center for Public Integrity. The chronically underfunded agency’s budget has remained mostly flat in recent years, even as the cost of elections has increased dramatically. In fact, at the end of 2013, the agency was faced with “with 2.2 million pages worth of campaign finance disclosure reports not reviewed for errors, anomalies and completeness.”
- Included in the bill, as reported by the Center for Responsive Politics, “is language that would prohibit any of the funds approved in the budget from being used to require disclosure by those seeking government contracts, their officers, directors or affiliates, to candidates or committees or for independent expenditures or electioneering communications.” This is a response to a 2011 draft executive order discussed by the Obama administration that would have required government contractors to disclose their political spending. There hasn't really been any movement on that order since, but this likely means that it won't be resurrected.
- Reacting to the 2013 controversy at the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) over alleged targeting of 501(c)4 organizations, the bill bans funding for the IRS "to target groups for regulatory scrutiny based on their ideological beliefs or to target citizens for exercising their First Amendment rights.”
- What’s not in the bill matters too. A provision in a Senate appropriations bill from last summer that would have required senators to file their fundraising reports electronically was removed from the final agreement, according to BNA ($). This doesn’t make any sense. The practice would save the government nearly $500,000 a year and has been required for House and presidential campaigns since 2001. While it is unclear who pulled the strings to get the provision, which was initially included in President Obama’s requested budget, removed from the bill, the Sunlight Foundation has reported that noted opponent of common sense campaign finance regulation Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been behind efforts to kill Senate e-filing in the past.