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Congress quietly tries to weaken campaign finance laws in new spending deal

Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

On Tuesday night, Congressional negotiators reached a deal that will fund most of the government until the fall of 2015, if it passes. But the bipartisan compromise is about more than just government funding — one section, headlined "Other Matters," would give political parties the ability to raise a lot more money:

Campaign finance change in cromnibus

This provision would allow party committees to raise ten times as much more money from individual donors as current limitations allow, according to an analysis by Matea Gold of the Washington Post.

Previously, the limit on giving to a party committee was $32,400 per individual per year. But now, a donor can give money toward earmarked funds — for presidential conventions, party headquarters buildings, or recounts — that will be subject to separate, higher, contribution limits. By directing his or her money in that way, a donor will soon be able to give $324,000 to a party each year, if this bill is signed into law.

The change is an effort for the parties to regain control of campaign fundraising, after years where larger and larger sums have been steered to outside groups. It could be argued that this is a good thing, because the parties are theoretically more accountable for their fundraising and spending than outside groups, and have to disclose their donors. Still, it's inarguably yet another step back to the days before the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law, when parties exploited a loophole to raise unlimited amounts of "soft" money. The bill is expected to pass this week.

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