[JURIST] The Federal Election Commission [official website] said Wednesday that it will not appeal [press release] a ruling [PDF text; JURIST report] ordering it to either present a "reasoned explanation" for its case-by-case treatment of campaign contribution issues involving tax-exempt 527 groups [Opensecrets.org backgrounder], or to institute new rules "if necessary." The FEC voted 4-2 to explain how the FEC deals with 527 groups, which have been criticized as vehicles for political interest groups to avoid the soft-money restrictions required by the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 [FEC materials], popularly known as the McCain-Feingold law.
FEC Chairman Michael E. Toner [official profile], who has called for 527 rules [Roll Call op-ed] before, dissented in the vote, saying the lack of clear guidelines will result in uncertainty and end-runs around the McCain-Feingold reforms. Like some other Republicans, Toner supports the recategorization of 527 groups as political action committees subject to the soft-money rules. Though both parties took advantage of 527 groups during the 2004 election cycle, groups supporting Democrats spent about $266 million in 527 money, compared with $144 million spent by groups backing Republicans, according to Political Money Line. The New York Times has more. The Washington Post has additional coverage.