DNC retreats, lifts ban on money from lobbyists and PACs

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee, speaks at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. (Photo credit: Christopher Dilts, Obama for America)

As it gears up for an expensive election, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has decided to loosen its restrictions and start accepting contributions for its national convention and presidential campaign accounts from lobbyists and political action committees, lifting a ban that has been in place for the past two presidential elections.

Donors who want to support a presidential candidate can only give $2,700 directly to the candidate, but with joint fundraising agreements, the DNC can accept up to $33,400 from each donor on a candidate’s behalf. Under the DNC’s new rules, this money will now be allowed to come from lobbyists and PACs, as well as from individual donors.

The DNC will also allow lobbyists and PACs to give money to the committee organizing its 2016 nominating convention in Philadelphia, one of its most important fundraising efforts. The ban will remain for most other fundraising.

The restrictions on lobbyist and PAC contributions were put in place by candidate Barack Obama when he was the Democratic nominee in 2008, reflecting his hope to change the culture of money in politics in Washington. According to a DNC spokeswoman, “President Obama will continue to decline to raise funds for the DNC from lobbyists or political action committees for any of the committee’s activities or programs.”

In its official platform, the DNC still calls for “immediate action to curb the influence of lobbyists and special interests on our political institutions.” While the decision to accept money from lobbyists and PACs is a step backward for the DNC, it also highlights the growing role both parties expect special interest money will play in the 2016 election.