Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Passed Senate amended (08/01/1990)

Senate Election Campaign Ethics Act of 1990 - Title I: Senate Election Campaign Spending Limits and Benefits - Amends the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to provide for spending limits and to establish eligibility requirements for benefits for Senate primary, general, and runoff elections. Limits personal expenditures during an election cycle to $250,000 and aggregate expenditures for a general election to the lesser of: (1) $5,550,000; or (2) the greater of: (a) $950,000; or (b) $400,000 plus 30 cents for each voter up to 4,000,000 voters and 25 cents for the number of voters exceeding 4,000,000. Limits expenditures for the primary election and any runoff election to, respectively: (1) the lesser of 67 percent of the general election expenditure limit or $2,750,000; and (2) 20 percent of such limit. Provides for increasing threshold amounts under this Act in accordance with increases in the price index. Increases such primary and runoff election spending limits by the aggregate amount of independent expenditures in excess of $10,000 made against, or on behalf of any opponent of, such candidate during the applicable period.

Requires an individual who files as a candidate for the primary election, in order to be eligible to receive the benefits for that election, to file a declaration with the Secretary of the Senate indicating that the candidate and his or her authorized committees will comply with such limits.

Sets forth a threshold contribution requirement for general election candidates that is met if the candidate and the candidate's authorized committees have received contributions during the applicable period in an amount at least equal to ten percent of the general election expenditure limit. Disallows, for purposes of satisfying such requirement, contributions by: (1) an individual pursuant to a written instrument which does not identify such individual as the contributor; (2) an intermediary or conduit; or (3) an individual during the applicable period which exceed $250; and (4) an individual residing outside the candidate's State which exceed 50 percent of the aggregate allowable contributions received by the candidate during the applicable period.

Requires a candidate for the general election, in order to be eligible to receive the benefits for that election, to file a certification with Secretary of the Senate that: (1) the candidate and his or her authorized committees comply with the primary and runoff election expenditure limits and the threshold contribution requirement; (2) they will abide by additional spending and contribution limits and other requirements set forth by this Act; and (3) at least one other candidate has qualified for the same general election ballot under the law of the State involved.

Establishes spending limitations for a candidate in a State with no more than one transmitter for a commercial VHF television station.

Allows a candidate or Federal officeholder to establish a fund with amounts subject to the requirements of this Act up to a certain amount to defray the costs of legal and accounting services provided to ensure compliance with this Act or in connection with the candidate's activities as a Federal officeholder other than costs for the purpose of influencing the election of such candidate to Federal office. Permits the candidate to petition the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for a waiver of such limitation if such costs exceed the limitation. Requires, upon termination of the fund, that remaining amounts be transferred to: (1) another fund to be used for such purposes during the next general election; (2) an authorized committee of the candidate as contributions allocable to the next such election; or (3) the Senate Election Campaign Fund.

Exempts any expenditure by the candidate or the candidate's authorized committees for Federal, State, or local taxes on earnings allocable to contributions from the general expenditure limit.

Establishes formulae for determining entitlements of candidates of a major party and for those not of a major party. Entitles candidates to certain broadcast media rates and mailing rates and to voter communication vouchers to purchase broadcast time during the general election period. Provides for additional payments and suspension of spending limits in cases where non-participating candidates exceed spending limitations. Permits candidates to use such payments to defray expenditures in the general election. Prohibits the use of such payments to: (1) make any payments directly or indirectly to the candidate or the candidate's immediate family, except to repay any loan used to further the general election of such candidate; (2) make any expenditure other than expenditures to further the general election; (3) make any expenditures in violation of State or Federal law; or (4) repay any loan except to the extent the proceeds of such loan were used to further the general election.

Requires the FEC to certify the eligibility of candidates to the Secretary of the Treasury in order for such candidates to receive benefits.

Establishes in the Treasury the Senate Election Campaign Fund for the deposit of funds for payments to eligible candidates and for voter communication vouchers. Directs the Secretary to maintain such accounts in the Fund as appropriate. Provides for prorating payments when monies in such Fund are insufficient. Provides for increasing the amount of the eligible candidate's contribution limit under this title by the pro rata reduction in payments.

Directs the FEC, after each general election, to audit the campaign expenses of publicly financed candidates. Makes candidates liable for the repayment of excess payments and vouchers to the Secretary.

Establishes criminal penalties for knowing and willful violations of this title.

Subjects FEC actions under this Act to judicial review by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Authorizes appropriations to the FEC as necessary.

Declares that if any of such provisions are held to be invalid, all provisions of this Act shall be treated as invalid.

Amends the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to: (1) revise the definition of a "political committee" to delete references to any separate segregated fund and any committee, club, association, or group which receives contributions or makes expenditures annually totaling over $1,000 and to include any national, State, or district committee of a political party, including any subordinate committee thereof; (2) repeal provisions excluding nonpartisan registration and get-out-the-vote campaigns and the establishment of, and solicitation of contributions for, a separate segregated fund from the definition of a "contribution or expenditure" by a national bank, corporation, or labor organization; (3) prohibit making, soliciting, or receiving contributions or making expenditures to influence a Federal election by any person other than an individual or a political committee; and (4) deem any political committee which is established, financed, maintained or controlled by any candidate or Federal officeholder to be an authorized committee of such candidate or officeholder for purposes of limitations on contributions to a candidate's committees. Specifies that if such prohibition is not in effect: (1) it and the other amendments made by this Act to the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 regarding such definitions and a candidate's committees shall not be in effect and prior law will be reinstated; (2) political action committees not connected to corporations, labor organizations, or trade associations will be subject to a $1,000 contribution limit; and (3) it shall be unlawful for a multicandidate political committee to make a contribution to a candidate or a candidate's authorized committee to the extent that the making of the contribution will cause the amount of contributions received from the multicandidate political committees to exceed the lesser of: (1) $825,000; or (2) the greater of: (a) $375,000; or (b) 20 percent of the sum of the general election spending limit plus the primary election spending limit regardless of whether the candidate is eligible. Provides that in the case of individuals who are executive or administrative personnel of an employer: (1) no contributions may be made by such individuals to any political committees established and maintained by any political party, or to any candidate for election to the Senate or the candidate's authorized committees, unless such individuals certify that such contributions are not being made at the direction of, or otherwise controlled or influenced by, the employer; and (2) the aggregate amount of such contributions by all such individuals in any calendar year shall not exceed $20,000 in the case of such political committees and $5,000 in the case of any such candidate and the candidate's authorized committees.

Amends the Communications Act of 1934 to: (1) prohibit the charges made for the use of any broadcasting station by a candidate for Federal office during specified periods from exceeding the lowest unit charge of the station for the same amount of time for the same period and, in the case of any eligible candidate for the Senate, to provide that such reduced rates shall apply to any broadcast during the general election period rather than the 60-day period preceding such election; (2) provide that if the broadcast time of a candidate for Federal office exceeds 30 seconds, the lowest unit cost for such time shall not be greater than the rates for broadcasts of 30 seconds; (3) prohibit any broadcast licensee from preempting, during any such specified period when the lowest rate charged for any time in such a period is in effect, the use of a broadcasting station by such candidate who has purchased such use during such period unless the program during which the candidate's broadcast was to air is unavoidably preempted. Outlines the responsibilities of broadcast licensees in providing broadcast time to eligible candidates pursuant to voter communications vouchers.

Provides for reduced postal rates for eligible Senate candidates.

Requires communications paid for or authorized by a candidate in a Senate general election who is not an eligible candidate under this Act to contain a specified message indicating that the candidate has not agreed to abide by the spending limits set forth in this Act.

Sets forth reporting requirements for Senate candidates relating to spending limitations, candidate eligibility, and independent expenditures. Requires any candidate for the Senate who, during the election cycle, expends more than $250,000 from personal funds, the funds of the candidate's immediate family, and personal loans incurred by the candidate and the candidate's immediate family, to report to the Secretary of the Senate within 24 hours after such expenditures have been made or loans incurred. Requires the FEC to notify eligible candidates of such reports. Provides that when two or more persons make independent expenditures in excess of $10,000 in concert during any general, primary, or runoff election period for the office of Senator, each person shall report to the Secretary of the Senate on such expenditures.

Title II: Expenditures and Contributions: Subtitle A: Independent Expenditures - Defines "cooperative expenditure" as any expenditure which is made: (1) with the cooperation of, or in consultation with, any candidate or any authorized committee or agent of such candidate; or (2) in concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, any candidate or any authorized committee or agent of such candidate. Specifies the conditions under which an expenditure will be included within such definition. Provides that a cooperative expenditure shall be treated as: (1) an expenditure made by the candidate on whose behalf it was made; and (2) a contribution from the person making the expenditure to the candidate on whose behalf it was made.

Amends the Communications Act of 1934 to require a person who reserves broadcast time the payment for which would constitute an independent expenditure to inform the licensee of the nature of the payment and the names of all candidates for the office to which the proposed broadcast relates and to provide the licensee with a statement that identifies the candidate whom such independent expenditure is intended to affect. Outlines the responsibilities of a broadcast licensee who is informed and who endorses a candidate for Federal office in an editorial.

Amends the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to set forth disclosure requirements for independent expenditures through television and audio broadcasts or other types of general public political advertising.

Subtitle B: Expenditures - Part I: Personal Loans; Credit - Provides that if a candidate or a member of the candidate's immediate family made any loans to the candidate or to the candidate's authorized committees during any election cycle no contributions after the date of the general election for such election cycle may be used to repay such loans. Provides that no contribution by a candidate or member of the candidate's immediate family may be returned to the candidate or member other than as part of a pro rata distribution of excess contributions to all contributors.

Makes the current $1,000 limitation on individual contributions to any candidate for Federal office applicable to contributions by an individual to any candidate running for: (1) President or Vice President; or (2) a seat in the Senate or House with respect to the State where such individual resides. Reduces such limitation to $250 in the case of contributions by an individual to any candidate running for a seat in the Senate or House outside the State where such individual resides.

Includes within the definition of "contribution" any extension of credit for goods or services relating to advertising if such extension of credit exceeds $1,000 and is for a certain period with respect to a candidate for the Senate.

Part II: Provisions Relating to Soft Money of Political Parties - Establishes limitations of $20,000 and $15,000, respectively, on individuals and multicandidate committee contributions to State committees of a political party with respect to any calendar year. Provides for increasing the current $25,000 annual limitation on individual contributions by the amount of contributions made by an individual during a calendar year to such a committee. Limits such increase to $5,000.

Subjects to Federal limitations, prohibitions, and reporting requirements any amount solicited, received, or expended directly or indirectly by a national, State, or local committee of a political party with respect to an activity to influence a Federal election (soft money). Specifies the activities during a Federal election period to be treated as influencing a Federal election for purposes of such provisions. Prohibits a State committee of a political party from making expenditures which, in the aggregate, exceed an amount equal to four cents multiplied by the voting age population of the State for such activities with respect to the general election campaign of a candidate for President who is affiliated with such party. Repeals provisions excluding certain payments to State or local committees of a political party from the definitions of "contribution" and "expenditure" to subject such payments to the limitations and reporting requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971. Revises provisions regarding certain payments to State and local committees of a political party to cover the costs incurred with respect to printed slate cards or sample ballots to provide that such provisions shall not apply to the costs incurred by such committees with respect to the mass mailing of such a printed listing.

Applies the limitations on contributions under the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to transfers between and among the political committees described in the provisions setting forth such limitations except that a national committee may not solicit or accept contributions not subject to the limitations, prohibitions, and reporting requirements of that Act. Prohibits such provisions from applying to contributions that are to be: (1) transferred to a State committee for activities which are not for influencing an election for Federal office; or (2) used by the committee primarily to support such activities.

Prohibits the national committee of a political party, the congressional campaign committees of a political party, and a State or local committee of a political party from making expenditures during any calendar year for the activities specified under this part with respect to such State which, in the aggregate, exceed an amount equal to 30 cents multiplied by the voting age population of the State.

Specifies that "generic campaign activities" (a campaign activity the preponderant purpose or effect of which is to promote a political party rather than any particular Federal or non-Federal candidate) during a Federal election period shall be treated as influencing an election for Federal office.

Subjects fundraising by a candidate for Federal office and by an individual holding Federal office for Federal or non-Federal elections to the limitations, prohibitions, and requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971. Prohibits Federal officeholders and candidates from raising contributions from any person of more than $5,000 on behalf of any tax-exempt organization which they have established or which they maintain or control. Prohibits Federal officeholders and candidates from raising any contributions on behalf of tax-exempt organizations if a significant portion of the activities of such organization include voter registration or get-out-the-vote campaigns.

Sets forth additional reporting requirements for national, State, district, or local committees of a political party with respect to receipts and disbursements for activities to influence a Federal election (soft money). Requires national committees of a political party and any congressional campaign committee to report all receipts and disbursements whether or not they are used to influence a Federal election. Defines "congressional campaign committee" as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the National Republican Congressional Committee. Provides that, in lieu of any report required to be filed by the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, the FEC may allow a State committee of a political party to file a report required under State law if such report contains substantially the same information. Applies the reporting requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to certain payments to State or local committees of a political party excluded from the definitions of "contribution" and "expenditure" under such Act (soft money). Requires such exempt contributions or expenditures that are in excess of $200 to be reported. Requires any individual who makes contributions in exess of $10,000 to any candidate for Federal office or to any political committee that are subject to the limitations of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to report to the FEC within seven days after making such contributions and thereafter each time such individual makes contributions in excess of $5,000. Requires any candidate for Federal office, any authorized committee of a candidate, or any political committee soliciting contributions subject to such limitation to include with such solicitation notice of such requirement to report and the annual individual limitation on such contributions to them.

Subtitle C: Contributions - Prohibits a congressional campaign committee of a political party, during an election cycle, from accepting, from multicandidate political committees and separate segregated funds, contributions which exceed 30 percent of the total expenditures which such committee may make during that election cycle. Prohibits a national committee of a political party during an election cycle from accepting, from multicandidate political committees and separate segregated funds, contributions which, in the aggregate, exceed an amount equal to two cents multiplied by the voting age population of the United States.

Subjects any expenditure made by a national or State committee of a political party or a congressional campaign committee for general public political advertising which clearly identifies a candidate for Federal office by name to the limitations on expenditures by national and State committees of a political party under the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971. Prohibits such provisions from applying to expenditures for mass mailings designed primarily for fundraising purposes which make only incidental references to any one or more Federal candidates.

Provides for the accountability of contributions made by intermediaries or conduits.

Prohibits excess campaign contributions from being used to defray the expenditures of Senators with respect to ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in connection with their duties as Federal officeholders. Provides that ordinary and necessary expenses for the travel of the spouse or children of a Senator between Washington, D.C., and the State from which the Senator is elected shall be treated as expenses incurred in connection with the Senator's duties as a Federal officeholder. Prohibits a political committee (other than the principal campaign committee of a Federal officeholder) from making any contribution, expenditure, or disbursement or transferring any amount for the purpose of defraying expenses incurred by the Federal officeholder in connection with his or her duties.

Provides that any contribution by an individual who is not of voting age and who is a dependent of another individual shall be treated as having been made by such other individual.

Makes it unlawful for any separate segregated fund or nonparty multicandidate political committee of a foreign national to make any contribution directly or through any other person in connection with an election to any political office or in connection with any primary election, convention, or caucus held to select candidates for any political office. Revises the definition of "foreign national" to include any partnership, association, corporation, or subsidiary corporation organized under Federal or State law if more than 50 percent of the entity is owned or controlled by a foreign principal.

Subtitle D: Reporting Requirements - Revises reporting requirements under the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971.

Title III: Federal Election Commission - Revises provisions regarding the organization of political committees to prohibit a political committee that is not an authorized committee from including the name of any candidate in its name in such a context as to suggest that it is an authorized committee of the candidate or that the use of the candidate's name has been authorized by the candidate.

Revises reporting requirements to give a political committeee which is the principal campaign committee of a House or Senate candidate the option of filing monthly reports in all calendar years in lieu of the reports currently required to be filed with the FEC, except with respect to the general election reports.

Revises enforcement provisions. Changes the determination the FEC must make upon receiving a complaint and before notifying a person of an alleged violation. Repeals the requirement that all FEC decisions with respect to the exercise of its duties and powers under the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 be made by a majority vote of its members. Subjects such decisions to an affirmative vote of four FEC members, except with respect to certain questions including such a determination in which case the general counsel is required to make a recommendation for action. Requires such action to be taken upon an affirmative vote of three FEC members. Provides that in the event of a vacancy in the office of general counsel, the next highest ranking enforcement official in that office shall serve as acting general counsel with full powers of the general counsel until a successor is appointed. Increases the rate of basic pay of the general counsel to the rate for the FEC staff director.

Provides that fees collected by the FEC for copying and certification of records and for the provision of other materials to the public shall not be covered into the general fund of the Treasury, but shall be kept in a separate account and shall be available to the FEC to carry out the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971.

Revises provisions regarding penalties prescribed in conciliation agreements and penalties for violations which are adjudicated in court.

Authorizes the FEC to conduct random audits and investigations to ensure voluntary compliance with this Act.

Sets forth disclosure requirements for expenditures and independent expenditures through television and radio broadcasts or other types of general public political advertising.

Declares that no person shall: (1) make a fraudulent misrepresentation that the person is authorized to solicit or accept a contribution to a candidate or political committee; or (2) solicit or accept a contribution to a candidate or political committee unless the person pays over to the candidate or political committee any contribution received and informs the candidate or political committee of the name of the contributor.

Title IV: Miscellaneous - Subtitle A: Miscellaneous - Prohibits an incumbent or candidate for Federal office from establishing, maintaining, or controlling a political committee other than an authorized committee of the candidate or a committee of a political party.

Requires a contribution of polling data to a candidate for the Senate to be valued at the fair market value of the data on the date the poll was completed, depreciated at a rate not more than one percent per day from such date to the date on which the contribution was made.

Defines a "mass mailing" as newsletters and similar mailings of more than 100 pieces in which the content of the matter mailed is substantially identical, excluding: (1) mailings made in direct response to communications from persons to whom the matter is mailed; (2) mailings to Federal, State, or local government officials; and (3) news releases to the communications media.

Requires a labor organization that receives payments pursuant to an agreement that requires covered employees who are organization members to make payments of dues to the organization and employees who are not organization members to make payments in lieu of dues to the organization, to establish specified procedures governing employee objections regarding the use of payments to fund the political activities of an organization of which they are not a member. Authorizes civil actions in district courts by aggrieved employees against the labor organization to recover excess payments or for other appropriate equitable relief.

Amends the Ethics Reform Act of 1989 to include unearned income within the limitation on outside earned income.

Amends the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 to subject Senators and Senate officers and employees to the Government-wide limitations on outside income (including the ban on honoraria) and the restrictions on the treatment of charitable contributions imposed by the Ethics Reform Act of 1978.

Prohibits payments in any fiscal year from the Senate Election Campaign Fund unless the amount appropriated to carry out provisions of the Public Health Service Act providing for model projects regarding drug and alcohol abuse relating to pregnant and post partum women and their infants exceeds $100,000,000 in the fiscal year.

Expresses the sense of the Senate that appropriate prohibitions and restrictions be placed on the use of employees of the Executive Office of the President, the official residence of the Vice President, and official travel of the President, Vice President, and other executive branch officers and employees in connection with political fundraising and political campaigning.

Subtitle B: Provisions Relating to Congressional Mass Mailings - Requires the Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper of the Senate and the House Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards to send: (1) to each Member of Congress a quarterly statement of the cost of postage, paper, and other operating expenses incurred as a result of mass mailings processed for such Member; and (2) a compilation of all such statements to the Senate and House Committees on Rules and Administration.

Prohibits franked mass mailings for a Member whose postage expenses have exhausted appropriated funds.

Prohibits congressional franked mass mailings within one year before an election (currently, 60 days before an election).

Provides for the reporting and publication of congressional mass mailings.

Prohibits the transfer of funds by a Senate or House office to the office of a Member of the Senate or House who is a candidate for Federal office during any fiscal year in which appropriations for official mail costs for the Senate or House are allocated among individual Senate or House offices. Provides for the reporting and publication of official mail cost allocation transfers. Expresses the sense of the Senate with regard to such reporting and publication of official mail cost allocation transfers among Senate offices.

Repeals provisions authorizing payment from the Senate contingent fund for postage on franked mail in excess of amounts provided from funds for official mail costs.