Tacked at the end of the 1,603-page government spending bill released by the U.S. House of Representatives late Tuesday is a provision that would enable wealthy individuals to make significantly larger contributions to political parties.
Under current campaign finance law, individuals cannot give more than $32,400 a year to the Democratic National Committee or the Republican National Committee. But a section on "other matters" on page 1,599 of the spending bill sets separate limits for donations earmarked for the national parties' political conventions, buildings and potential recount efforts.
Individuals would be allowed to donate three times the annual party contribution limit to each of the earmarked efforts in addition to the party itself, effectively allowing one person to funnel $324,000 a year to party efforts.
Good government groups were surprised by the inclusion of the language, believing they had averted earlier efforts to include a campaign-finance provision related to coordination between independent groups and political candidates.
"The price for seat at the table in Washington just went up again and even further out of reach for all but the very richest of Americans," Campaign Legal Center President Meredith McGehee said in a statement.
Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer said leaders from both parties had secretly entered into an "unholy alliance" to undermine a 2002 bipartisan campaign finance reform law.
"These provisions have never been considered by the House or Senate, and were never even publicly mentioned before today," Wertheimer said in a statement.
The nonprofit groups Public Campaign and Common Cause also criticized the inclusion of a political contribution expansion in the bill funding government programs.
The House is expected to vote on the spending bill on Thursday.