By a vote of 4-1, the FEC this afternoon voted to approve its draft advisory opinion denying John Edwards for President's ability to seek matching funds for contributions made via ActBlue.
We did our best, and y'all did a fantastic job in sending your comments to the FEC, but at the end of the day, the fairly clear language of the regulation itself was too difficult to overcome.
Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, one of three Democrats on the FEC, was the lone dissenter. Earlier in the day, she had offered a pro-Edwards draft opinion, but was unable to muster support for its passage.
[There is an argument that when statutory or regulatory language is clear, the proper move is to apply it ruthlessly, and use such absurd results to force a future change, but that change is, now, only a future one.]
Folks have estimated this may cost Edwards around $3M in matching funds, yielding $9-$10M at year's end instead of $12-$13M, though there's a bit of convolutedness as to how the funds will actually be obtained this time around.
On the other advisory opinion we've been tracking, the FEC voted 3-1 to reject the draft opinion which would have allowed ActBlue to solicit funds from the public for labor PACs and the like, and then voted 5-0 for the draft which will allow ActBlue to work with such organizations to solicit funds from their own members.
Not a great day for technology in politics.
updated: Edwards campaign statement:
"Although today's decision by the FEC is a setback to the progressive grassroots movement, our campaign has all of the resources it needs to aggressively make our case to voters. Even without the ActBlue contributions included, we will meet our projected $10 million in matching funds."
update II:Via ActBlue executive director Jonathan Zucker:
With $33 million raised -- half from contributions under $50 -- ActBlue has empowered grassroots donors across the country. Using new tools and techniques, we are creating a new era of small-donor democracy. Unfortunately, it is going to take a bit longer for the regulatory regime to reflect these positive advances in our politics.
We are honored by and grateful to the thousands of people who wrote to the FEC in support of ActBlue. Their passionate participation in our democracy is exactly what motivates our work.