A massive expansion of party fundraising slipped into a congressional budget deal this week would fundamentally alter how money flows into political campaigns, providing parties with new muscle to try to wrest power back from independent groups. The provision — one of the most significant changes to the campaign finance system since the landmark McCain-Feingold measure — was written behind closed doors with no public debate. Instead, it surfaced at the last minute in the final pages of a 1,603-page spending bill, which Congress is rushing to pass to keep government operations from shutting down. Under the language in the bill, a couple could give as much as $3.1 million to a party’s various national committees in one election cycle — more than triple the current limit.
The move was heralded by party supporters, who said it would replenish the official Democratic and Republican organizations, which were left weakened by a 2002 ban on soft money and the subsequent rise of super PACs and other outside groups.
“A lot of us would like to get the parties back in the game,” said Richard Hohlt, a Republican lobbyist and veteran fundraiser. “This language would strengthen the parties and provides some transparency and oversight over an uncontrollable, Wild West fundraising atmosphere.”