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What is soft money?

November 01, 2000

What is soft money?



By DAN KULIN / Staff Writer


"Soft money" is defined as unregulated contributions from unions, corporations or individuals to political parties.

Campaign finance laws prohibit unions and corporations from giving campaign contributions to candidates. The laws also limit the amount individuals can contribute to campaigns to $1,000 per campaign. Primaries and general elections are considered separate campaigns.

There are, however, no limits on contributions to political parties.

"This is the way corporations and unions get around the prohibition on giving to candidates," said Susan Quatrone, a spokeswoman for Common Cause, a Washington, D.C., private government watchdog group pushing for an end to soft money.

"Soft money is money raised outside the limits and prohibitions of the law," said Kelly Huff, FEC spokeswoman.

Soft money is used by the parties for party building and voter registration activities, as well as issue ads.

The amount of soft money and political parties' use of the money for issue ads has drawn criticism, especially from some government watchdog groups.

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Issue ads can, and often do, focus on candidates. But they are not considered campaign ads as long as the advertisements do not tell the audience whether or not to vote for a particular candidate, Quatrone said.

She said that as of June 30, the political parties raised a combined $256 million in soft money for the current election cycle.

According to FEC records, almost $4,000 in soft money came from Washington County in 1999 and 2000.

Those soft money contributions were:


- $2,000 from the Allegheny Power PAC in Hagerstown to the Republican National State Election Committee, made in March.

- $500 from Myers Building Systems in Clear Spring to the National Republican Congressional Committee Contributions, made in June.

- $300 from Stateline LLC in Hagerstownto the National Republican Congressional Committee Contributions, made in June.

- $300 from Bast Funeral Home in Boonsboro to the Republican National State Election Committee, made in July.

- $280 from the Bast Funeral Home in Boonsboro to the National Republican Congressional Committee Contributions, made in September 1999.

- $300 from Roy L. Hoffman & Sons Inc. in Hagerstown to the National Republican Congressional Committee Contributions made in June 1999.

- $250 from Interstate Battery in Hagerstown to the National Republican Congressional Committee Contributions, made in February 1999.

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