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FEC fines Sierra Club
A Federal Election Commission settlement with the Sierra Club will likely put new limits on how explicit outside groups may be when trying to influence voters.

The environmental group agreed to pay a $28,000 fine to settle charges that it had paid for a brochure that expressly advocated the election or defeat of candidates in the 2004 presidential and Senate races from its corporate treasury.

Because the Sierra Club brochure was found to contain express advocacy, it was determined to be an independent expenditure.

Campaign finance laws prohibit money from a corporate treasury to pay for independent expenditures.

FEC Chairman Michael Toner described the settlement as “one of the most important express advocacy cases the commission has resolved in recent years.”

The settlement provides a bit more clarity to a Supreme Court decision, McConnell v. FEC, that found that the definition of what constitutes express advocacy goes beyond so-called “magic words,” such as “vote for” or “vote against.” That had been the previous standard used.

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