House tries to decriminalize campaign ad infractions


Mike Pence (R-IN) successfully managed to get a provision through the House of Representatives that would prevent the Department of Justice from pursuing criminal enforcement of campaign advertising regulations. They would still be vulnerable to civil enforcement by the FEC. The bill is an amendment to a spending measure. According to the Associated Press, the measure passed by a 215-205 vote, indicating a certain amount of Democratic support.

However, AP notes that unnamed members of the Senate have vowed that it would not survive there. The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act is closely associated with John McCain (R-AZ) and Russ Feingold (D-WI). The move comes after the Supreme Court weakened part of BCRA limiting corporate and union sponsorship of issue ads in the weeks before elections. Pence said it avoids pursuing criminal penalties against citizens for exercising their right of free speech. Elections watchdog Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21 said the move, which he said denies DoJ the funding it needs to enforce rules on the books, was irresponsible.