The Federal Election Commission put off a decision Thursday on just how far so-called super PACs — a dominant force so far in the 2016 campaign — can go in raising millions of dollars for politicians. The inaction was not surprising for a commission often gridlocked by partisan divisions. Still, it frustrated Democratic lawyers, who had asked the commission last month for an “emergency” ruling on whether a dozen fund-raising tactics used by super PACs and politicians should be considered legal. A number of the tactics, like having super PACs host lavish fund-raisers for politicians before they actually announce their candidacies, have become common this election season, particularly among Republicans. A super PAC supporting Jeb Bush hosted him at several dozen events earlier this year before he declared himself a candidate, raising more than $100 million to support his now-flagging campaign.
Democratic lawyers for House and Senate super PACs, who brought the petition, say the election commission should either rule the questionable tactics improper — or authorize them so Democrats feel free to use them too. Some lawyers have advised Democrats not to use these fund-raising tactics because they fall into a legal gray area.
“If it’s legal for anyone, it’s legal for everyone,” Marc Elias, the lead lawyer for the Democratic super PACs, said after Thursday’s commission hearing.