Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Conference report filed in House (04/08/1992)

Congressional Campaign Spending Limit and Election Reform Act of 1992 - Title I: Control of Congressional Campaign Spending - Subtitle A: Senate Election Campaign Spending Limits and Benefits - Amends the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (FECA) to add a new "Title V: Spending Limits and Benefits for Senate Election Campaigns."

Makes Senate candidates eligible to receive benefits under this title if they meet certain contribution and expenditure limits.

Limits Senate primary expenditures for a candidate (or his or her authorized committees) to: (1) 67 percent of the general election expenditure limit; or (2) $2,750,000. Limits runoff expenditures at 20 percent of the general election expenditure limit. Mandates increase of such limits by the amount of any independent expenditures in opposition to the candidate. Requires annual adjustments of such limits according to a specified price index. Mandates treatment as general election contributions, except in certain circumstances, of any primary or runoff contributions in excess of expenditure limits.

Sets the threshold contribution amount which triggers application of such primary and runoff limits at the lesser of: (1) ten percent of the general election expenditure limit; or (2) $250,000.

Limits the use by a Senate candidate (or authorized committees), during an entire election cycle, of the candidate's personal (or family) funds (including debt) to the lesser of: (1) ten percent of the general election expenditure limit; or (2) $250,000.

Limits aggregate general election expenditures by an eligible Senate candidate (or authorized committees) to the lesser of: (1) $5,500,000; or (2) the greater of $950,000, or $400,000 plus 30 cents times the voting age population up to 4,000,000 and 25 cents times the voting age population over 4,000,000. Allows an increase in such limit for Senate candidates in a State with no more than one transmitter for a licensed commercial Very High Frequency (VHF) television station.

Exempts from the general election expenditure limit qualified legal and accounting expenditures from a legal and accounting compliance fund meeting certain requirements.

Entitles eligible Senate candidates to certain broadcast media rates, mailing rates, voter communication vouchers, and in certain circumstances, payments compensating for independent expenditures and excess expenditures (if any) on behalf of the candidate's opponent.

Limits the aggregate amount of voter communication vouchers, for purchase of broadcast time during the general election period, to: (1) 20 percent of the general election expenditure limit by a major party Senate candidate; and (2) ten percent of such limit by a non-major party candidate.

Waives the general election expenditure limit for the use of independent expenditure or excess expenditure payments. Provides for waiver of other limits and requirements if an eligible Senate candidate's opponent exceeds the contribution or expenditure limits set forth by this title of FECA.

Requires the Federal Election Commission (Commission) to certify an eligible Senate candidate within 48 hours after his or her application to the Secretary of the Senate.

Requires the Commission to examine and audit, for FECA compliance, the campaign accounts of ten percent of all Senate candidates, and the campaign accounts of all opponents of such candidates as well. Requires candidates to refund to the Commission any excess payments, expenditures, or voter communication vouchers. Sets civil penalties for excess expenditures and contributions.

Subjects Commission actions to judicial review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Authorizes the Commission to appear and defend itself against any such review action.

Requires full Commission reports to the Senate.

Denies any payments to any eligible Senate candidate unless he or she certifies that all his or her television commercials permit closed captioning.

Reduces from $5,000 to $2,500 the maximum aggregate contributions of any multicandidate political committee to a Senate candidate (or authorized committees). Makes it unlawful for aggregate multicandidate political committees to contribute to any Senate candidate (or authorized committees) more than the lesser of: (1) $825,000; or (2) the greater of $375,000, or 20 percent of the sum of the general election spending limit plus the primary election spending limit (without regard to the candidate's eligibility for FECA benefits). Requires annual adjustments of such dollar amounts according to a specified price index.

Sets forth reporting requirements for Senate candidates not eligible for FECA benefits. Requires a declaration to the Secretary of the Senate of any intention to exceed general election expenditure limits, or not. Requires reports to the Secretary within 24 hours of any contributions raised and expenditures made in excess of FECA limits, and additional reports within 24 hours of any additional contributions or expenditures exceeding ten percent of such limits, and other increments up to over 200 percent. Requires notification of eligible Senate candidates in the same race within 24 hours after receipt of such reports, and certification of eligibility for compensatory limit increases. Allows the Commission to make its own determination of whether an ineligible candidate exceeds FECA limits, and consequent notifications and certifications.

Requires any candidate for the Senate who, during the election cycle, exceeds limits on the use of 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 Commission to notify eligible candidates of such reports.

Requires certain expenditure reports from any Senate candidate who held Federal, State, or local office during the same election cycle, and made any expenditures, before becoming a Senate candidate, which would have been treated as Senate candidate expenditures, including amounts for activities to promote the individual's image or name recognition.

Requires all 24-hour response reports to be made public.

Requires Senate candidates not eligible for FECA benefits to place on every paid or authorized political commercial or communication the declaration: "This candidate has not agreed to voluntary campaign spending limits."

Subtitle B: Expenditure Limitations, Contribution Limitations, and Matching Funds for Eligible House of Representatives Candidates - Amends FECA to add "Title VI: Expenditure Limitations, Contribution Limitations, and Matching Funds for House of Representatives Candidates."

Limits an eligible House of Representatives (House) candidate, in an election cycle, to aggregate expenditures of $600,000, of which not more than $500,000 may be expended in the general election period.

Limits aggregate: (1) run-off election expenditures for such a candidate to 20 percent of the general election period limit; and (2) special election expenditures to $500,000. Allows an additional $150,000 in expenditures for the general election period to the winner of a closely contested primary whose margin of victory is ten percentage points or less.

Requires annual adjustment of such limits according to a specified price index, using calendar 1992 as the base year.

Waives expenditure limitations for an eligible House candidate if any opponent is not eligible for FECA benefits and spends in excess of 80 percent of the general election period limit. Entitles such an eligible candidate to all benefits and matching funds without regard to the matching funds ceiling.

Requires any noneligible House candidate who receives contributions exceeding 50 percent of the general election period limit, or makes expenditures exceeding 80 percent of such limit, to report to the Clerk of the House of Representatives within 48 hours.

Excludes from the computation of expenditures subject to limits under this title any payments for legal and accounting compliance and Federal, State, or local taxes with respect to a candidate's authorized committees.

Excludes fundraising costs from the computation of expenditures subject to limits under this title, so long as they do not exceed five percent of such limits. Excludes five percent of salaries and overhead expenditures as well from such computation, but requires that any amount so excluded be applied against the fundraising expenditure exemption.

Sets forth graduated civil penalties for low, medium, and large amounts of excess expenditures.

Requires the Commission to base its determination of a candidate's compliance with this title and eligibility to receive benefits on: (1) a statement of participation submitted by January 31 of the election year or on the date of filing for candidacy, whichever is later; and (2) relevant additional information submitted to verify continuing eligibility.

Limits the aggregate contributions an eligible House candidate may accept with respect to any election cycle to $600,000. Waives contribution limitations for an eligible House candidate if any opponent is not eligible for FECA benefits and spends in excess of 50 percent of the general election period limit. Provides for reductions of such limitations for a later election cycle if any funds are transferred. Limits contributions acceptable for a run-off election to 20 percent of the general election period limitation.

Limits to $50,000 in any election cycle the personal contributions of an eligible House candidate from his or her own funds. Waives this limitation if any other House candidate in the same election is ineligible for FECA benefits and receives contributions exceeding 50 percent of the general election period limitation. Entitles to triple matching funds any eligible House candidate whose opponent makes personal contributions to his or her own campaign in excess of 50 percent of the general election period limitation.

Sets forth graduated civil penalties for low, medium, and large amounts of excess contributions. Excludes from the computation of contributions subject to limits under this title any used for legal and accounting compliance costs and Federal, State, or local taxes with respect to a candidate's authorized committees. Allows an additional $150,000 in contributions for the general election period to the winner of a closely contested primary whose margin of victory is ten percentage points or less.

Requires annual adjustment of contribution limitations according to a specified price index, using calendar 1992 as the base year.

Entitles an eligible House candidate to receive, for a general election, an amount from the Commission matching up to $200,000 of contributions from individuals (but not to the extent that contributions from any individual during the election cycle exceed $250 in the aggregate).

Entitles an eligible candidate to an additional $10,000 matching payment if independent expenditures totaling $10,000 are made against him or her or in favor of another candidate, plus additional matching payments equal to the excess of such independent expenditures over $10,000. Waives the usual limitations on expenditures from such additional matching funds. Specifies certain requirements an eligible candidate must meet to receive matching payments, including a minimum warchest of $60,000 in contributions from individuals. Requires the Commission to: (1) certify an eligible House candidate for payment within five days after request; and (2) make the initial payment of $60,000 within 48 hours after certification. Entitles the winner of a closely contested primary (margin of victory of ten percent or less) to an additional $50,000 in matching payments for the general election. Requires annual adjustment of matching payments according to a specified price index, using calendar 1992 as the base year.

Prohibits conversion of any matching funds to personal use other than for reimbursement of verifiable prior campaign expenditures.

Requires the Commission to examine and audit, for FECA compliance, the campaign accounts of ten percent of the eligible House candidates, and the campaign accounts of all opponents of such candidates as well. Requires candidates to refund to the Commission any excess payments.

Subjects Commission actions to judicial review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Authorizes the Commission to appear and defend itself against any such review action.

Requires full Commission reports to the House of Representatives.

Denies any payments to any eligible House candidate unless he or she certifies that all his or her television commercials permit closed captioning.

Limits to $200,000 the maximum aggregate contributions of political committees to a House candidate, and to the same amount the maximum aggregate contributions of persons other than political committees whose contributions run over $250 (large donors). Allows an additional aggregate of $100,000 in contributions to an eligible House candidate in a runoff election, of which half may be from political committees and half from large donors. Exempts from computation of such limitations any contributed amounts used for legal and accounting compliance costs and Federal, State, and local taxes. Allows up to $150,000 in additional contributions for the general election to the winner of a closely contested primary, of which $50,000 may be from political committees, and $50,000 from large donors. Requires annual adjustment of contribution limitations according to a specified price index, using calendar 1992 as the base year.

Requires, during the initial election cycle to which the new contribution limitations apply, incumbent House candidates whose campaign accounts exceed $600,000 as of the date of the first statement of participation to deposit such excess in a separate account, which shall be available for any lawful purpose other than use in the individual's campaign for election to the House.

Subtitle C: General Provisions - Amends the Communications Act of 1934 to require a broadcast station to make broadcast time available to all House and Senate candidates in the last 30 (currently 45) days before a primary and the last 45 (currently 60) days before a general election, at the lowest unit charge of the station for the same amount of time (currently, the same class and amount of time) for the same period on the same date. Allows Senate candidates to purchase broadcast time at 50 percent of the lowest unit rate for the 45 days before a general election.

Prohibits broadcasters from preempting advertisements sold to political candidates at the lowest unit rate, unless the preemption is beyond the broadcaster's control.

Amends Federal law to permit eligible House and Senate candidates to mail up to one piece per eligible voter (voting age population) at the lowest third-class non-profit postage rate, during a general election period only.

Amends FECA to set forth reporting requirements for certain independent expenditures.

Requires a clear statement of responsibility in advertisements with: (1) a clearly readable type and color contrasts for print advertisements; (2) clearly readable type, color contrasts, the candidate's image, and for a duration of at least four seconds, for television advertisements; and (3) a clearly spoken message by the candidate for both television and radio advertisements.

Amends Federal law to prohibit a Senator who is a candidate for election to any public office from making a mass mailing under the frank during the calendar year of any primary or general election for such office. Restricts mass mailings of a Member of the House to the Member's district.

Title II: Independent Expenditures - Amends FECA to define "independent expenditure" as an expenditure for an advertisement or other communication that: (1) contains express advocacy; and (2) is made without the participation or cooperation of a candidate or a candidate's representative. Excludes from the meaning of "independent expenditure" any expenditure by: (1) a political committee of a political party; (2) persons who communicate or receive information about activities that have a purpose of influencing a candidate's election; and (3) persons with other specified relationships with a candidate or candidate's agents in the same election cycle.

Defines "express advocacy" as any communication that when taken as a whole: (1) expresses support for or opposition to specific candidate, a specific group of candidates, or candidates of a particular political party; or (2) suggests taking action with respect to an election, such as voting for or against, contributing to, or participating in campaign activity.

Title III: Expenditures - Subtitle A: Personal Loans; Credit - Amends FECA to prohibit the use of contributions after the date of a general election to repay loans to a candidate (or authorized committee) by the candidate himself or herself or by members of the candidate's family. Prohibits any return of personal contributions to a candidate or member of the candidate's family except as part of a pro rata distribution of excess contributions to all contributors.

Treats as a contribution any extension of credit of more than $1,000 for more than 60 days to Senate and House candidates (or authorized committees) by vendors of advertising and mass mailing services.

Subtitle B: Provisions Relating to Soft Money of Political Parties - Amends FECA to limit to an aggregate $10,000 in any calendar year: (1) an individual's contributions to political committees established by a State committee of a political party; and (2) a multicandidate political committee's contributions to State party committees. Increases the $25,000 per year limit on an individual's contributions to a candidate by the amount of contributions (up to $5,000) made to State party committees.

Prohibits a State party committee (including any subordinate committees) from making expenditures in connection with the general election presidential campaign of the party nominee which, in the aggregate, exceed four cents per voting age individual in the State (indexed back to 1974, making the limit closer to ten cents per voting age individual). Denies that this prohibition authorizes a committee to make expenditures for audio broadcasts (including television broadcasts) in excess of the amount which could have been made without regard to such prohibition.

Subjects to certain limitations, prohibitions and reporting requirements any amount ("soft money") solicited, received, or expended directly or indirectly by a national, State, district, or local committee of a political party (including any subordinate committee) with respect to an activity which, in whole or in part, is in connection with an election to Federal office. Includes among such activities: (1) voter registration and get-out-the vote activities; (2) specified generic campaign communication or advertising activities, or activities that identify a Federal candidate regardless of whether a State or local candidate is also identified; (3) development and maintenance of voter files; and (4) any other activity affecting (in whole or in part) an election to Federal office. Specifies other activities that shall not be treated as connected with a Federal election (therefore exempt from the soft money limitations, prohibitions, and reporting requirements of this title).

Defines a Federal election period as: (1) beginning on June 1 of any even-numbered calendar year (April 1 if a presidential election occurs in that year); and (2) ending on the date of regularly scheduled general elections for Federal office in that year.

Prohibits a national political party committee from soliciting or accepting contributions not subject to FECA limitations, prohibitions, and reporting requirements.

Declares that any amount received by the national, State, district, or local committee of a political party (including any subordinate committee) from a State or local candidate committee shall be treated as meeting the soft money requirements of this title if: (1) it is derived from meeting FECA source or dollar amount limitations or prohibitions; and (2) the State or local committee maintains, in the account from which payment is made, source and amount records for the purpose of determining whether such requirements are met, and certifies to the other committee that such requirements are met.

Limits to 30 cents per voting age individual the aggregate expenditures during any calendar year for specified activities connected with a Federal election (listed above) by any national committee, congressional campaign committee, and State or local committee of a political party (including subordinate committee).

Places limitations on fundraising by Federal candidates and officeholders and certain political committees. Prohibits such candidates and officeholders from soliciting funds to, or receiving funds on behalf of, any Federal or non-Federal candidate or political committee which are to be expended in connection with any election: (1) for Federal office unless such funds are subject to FECA prohibitions, limitations, and requirements; or (2) for non-Federal office unless such funds do not exceed amounts permitted with respect to Federal candidates and political committees under FECA, and are not from sources prohibited by FECA with respect to Federal elections. Specifies a ceiling on these latter amounts that a Federal candidate or officeholder may solicit for State committees from a multicandidate political committee. Waives such prohibitions and limitations on solicitations, receipts, or disbursements by a candidate for non-Federal office if State law permits.

Prohibits Federal candidates or officeholders from soliciting contributions to, or on behalf of, any tax-exempt organizations if a significant portion of the organization's activities include voter registration or get-out-the-vote campaigns.

Requires the national committee of a political party and any congressional campaign committee (and any subordinate committee) to report all receipts and disbursements during the reporting period, regardless of whether or not in connection with a Federal election. Imposes other specified reporting requirements on other kinds of political committees.

Title IV: Contributions - Specifies circumstances in which contributions made directly or indirectly by a person to or on behalf of a particular candidate through an intermediary or conduit (including those made or arranged to be made by an intermediary or conduit) shall be treated as contributions from such intermediary or conduit to the candidate (thus subjecting them to the FECA limitations otherwise applicable to that intermediary or conduit). Excludes from coverage of this anti-bundling provision any intermediary or conduit who is: (1) a candidate or candidate's representative receiving contributions to the candidate's principal campaign committee or authorized committee; (2) a professional fundraiser compensated for fundraising services at the usual and customary rate; (3) a volunteer hosting a fundraising event at the volunteer's home; or (4) an individual who transmits a contribution from the individual's spouse.

Treats contributions by a dependent not of voting age as having been made by the individual on whom that dependent is a dependent.

Prohibits a candidate for Federal office from accepting, with respect to any election, any contribution from a State or local political party committee (or subordinate committee) if such contribution, when added to the total of contributions previously accepted from all such committees of that political party, exceeds the relevant contribution limitation.

Excludes from the meaning of "contribution" any campaign expense voluntarily paid for by a campaign worker as an advance to the campaign, provided the amount does not exceed $500 and is reimbursed by the committee within ten days.

Title V: Reporting Requirements - Requires all Federal candidates and authorized committees to aggregate information on their financial activity reports on an election cycle basis (instead of a calendar year basis, as at present).

Requires candidates to report any expenditure in excess of the reporting threshold made to a person who provides services or materials for the candidate, whether the payment was made directly or indirectly under subcontract to another person providing personal or consulting services.

Reduces from $200 to $50 the threshold for reporting certain information by persons other than political committees.

Requires the Commission to maintain computerized indices of all contributions of at least $50 (currently $200).

Title VI: Federal Election Commission - Prohibits a political committee that is not an authorized committee from using a candidate's name in a way to suggest that the candidate has authorized such committee.

Allows candidate committees the option to file disclosure reports on a monthly basis in all years.

Provides that, in the event of a vacancy in the office of general counsel to the Commission, the next highest ranking enforcement official in such office shall serve as acting general counsel with full powers of the general counsel until a successor is appointed.

Sets the general counsel's rate of pay at the same level as the staff director's.

Revises the basis for an enforcement proceeding from "reason to believe that a person has committed or is about to commit a violation of FECA" to "facts have been alleged or ascertained that, if true, give reason to believe that a person may have committed, or may be about to commit" such a violation. Authorizes the Commission to initiate a civil action for a temporary restraining order or a temporary injunction at any time during an enforcement proceeding that it believes there is substantial likelihood a FECA violation is occurring or about to occur, and the need for expeditious action meets certain criteria.

Revises the formulae for penalties prescribed in conciliation agreements.

Authorizes the Commission to conduct random audits of political committees.

Prohibits contribution solicitation by false representation as a candidate or a representative of a candidate, a political committee, or a political party.

Directs the Commission to promulgate rules to prohibit devices or arrangements which have the purpose or effect of undermining or evading provisions of FECA restricting the use of non-Federal money to affect Federal elections.

Title VII: Ballot Initiative Committees - Defines a ballot initiative political committee as any committee, club, association or other group of persons which makes ballot initiative expenditures or receives ballot initiative contributions exceeding $1,000 during a calendar year in order to influence the outcome of any ballot initiative involving specified Federal issues voted on at the State, commonwealth, territory, or District of Columbia level. Excludes ballot initiative contributions and expenditures from the usual meaning of contributions and expenditures under FECA. Makes the political committee organizational and reporting requirements (and attendant civil penalties) under FECA applicable to ballot initiative committees.

Applies to ballot initiative contributions the current prohibition against: (1) making a contribution in the name of another person or knowingly permitting one's name to be used to effect such a contribution; and (2) knowingly accepting a contribution made by one person in the name of another person.

Limits ballot initiative contributions of currency to an aggregate of $100 per person.

Title VIII: Miscellaneous - Prohibits Federal candidates and officeholders from establishing, maintaining, or controlling any political committee (such as "leadership committees") other than a principal campaign committee of the candidate, authorized committee, party committee, or other political committee designated as an authorized committee. Permits such a prohibited political committee to continue to make contributions for one year after the effective date of this prohibition. Requires such a committee, at the end of such year, to disburse all funds by one or more specified means, namely to: (1) a tax-exempt charitable organization; (2) the Treasury; (3) the national, State, or local committees of a political party; or (4) candidates for elective office (but not more than $1,000 per candidate).

Requires that contributions of polling data to Federal candidates be valued at fair market value on the date of the poll's completion, depreciated at a rate of no more than one percent per day from the completion to the transmittal of the data.

Denies FECA payments to any general election candidates of a political party for President or Vice President unless both candidates for such office agree in writing to at least four debates for the office of President, or at least one debate for the office of Vice President, sponsored by a nonpartisan or bipartisan organization, with all other candidates for the office eligible for FECA benefits. Makes ineligible to receive such payments, and liable for reimbursements of any FECA payments already made, any such candidate responsible for failing to participate in such a debate.

Prohibits foreign nationals from directly or indirectly directing, controlling, influencing or participating in any person's election-related activities, such as making contributions or expenditures in connection with elections for any local, State, or Federal office or the administration of a political committee. Requires political action committees to state in solicitations that foreign nationals may not contribute.

Permits union and corporate expenditures for candidate appearances, debates and voter guides as exempt from the prohibition on corporate and union contributions and expenditures in Federal elections if certain conditions are met to assure that there is no express advocacy or favoritism shown through the structure or format of the activity.

Directs the Commission to study and report to the Congress on the feasibility of developing telephonic voting for persons with disabilities.

Prohibits the use of any aircraft owned or operated by the Federal Government (including Department of Defense aircraft) in connection with a Federal election, except for travel of the President or Vice President as long as the portion of the cost of any such travel allocable to election activities is paid by the President's authorized committee.

Declares that it is the sense of Congress that the Congress should consider legislation providing a Constitutional amendment to set reasonable limits on campaign expenditures in Federal elections.

Title IX: Effective Dates; Authorizations - Sets forth the general effective date of this Act.

Declares that this Act shall not be effective until certain estimated costs under the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 (Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act) have been offset by the enactment of subsequent legislation effectuating this Act (thus ensuring budget neutrality).

Declares that it is the sense of the Congress that subsequent legislation effectuating this Act shall not provide for general revenue increases, reduce expenditures for any existing Federal program, or increase the Federal budget deficit.

Permits direct appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court from any interlocutory order or final judgment, decree, or order issued by any court ruling on the constitutionality of any provision of this Act or amendment made by it.

Requires the Supreme Court, if it has not previously ruled on the question addressed in the lower court ruling, to accept jurisdiction over, advance on the docket, and expedite such appeal to the greatest extent possible.