Election officials Thursday approved a new twist on the bundling of campaign donations, allowing a Democratic women's group to accumulate checks for the party's presidential nominee long before that individual is chosen.
The group, WE LEAD, hopes to raise funds to help the nominee-to-be in the months between the primaries and the party's national convention, when that candidate will become eligible for about $74 million in federal money for the general election campaign.
The Federal Election Commission voted, 5 to 0, to allow WE LEAD's plan.
"It will help to empower small donors," said commission Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat, adding that she didn't think it would create a loophole in contribution limits. Some campaign finance watchdogs are concerned it could give political action committees a way around the $5,000-per-candidate limit they face when making contributions.
The WE LEAD PAC's plan is a new form of bundling, a fund-raising practice in which contributions from multiple donors are collected by a group or individual and given to a candidate.
Usually the money is collected for a named candidate and, as required by commission rules, turned over to the candidate within 10 days.
In WE LEAD's case, the candidate is unnamed, and the FEC decided the 10-day clock won't start ticking for the group until the Democratic Party determines who has won enough primaries to be the likely nominee. If that remains unclear before the convention, the group would give the money to the Democratic National Committee.