If the FEC is determined to sit on its hands about this, don't see much that can be done.
However, note that the 'No' decision in Opinion 1981-51 was specifically about the highly valuable services of an artist being used for fund raising, while ALL the other 'Yes' Opinions noted are about the everyday acceptance of essentially de minimus value munchkin services at the very bottom of a campaign -- the ones that, if you had to pay even minimum wage for them, you would just do without (the same attitude that causes campaigns to pretend their employees are 'contractors', to avoid paying unemployment compensation tax) -- envelope licking, driving folks around, etc.
The FEC seems rather determinedly of two minds about this -- it is bizarre for Opinion 1987-25 to have expressly stated that it was NOT over-ruling Opinion 1981-51, when they flatly contradict one another. Guess they just want to make it up as they go along.
I had thought of this distinction between high-value and low-value volunteer services, but I don't think it's right. Recall that contributions by Americans to campaigns are also limited -- they're just capped at $2300 ($1000 until not long ago), rather than entirely forbidden as to foreigners. Clearly the value of a Chuck Norris or Barbra Streisand performing at a campaign event is over $2300. Yet that's allowed; why?
Because the volunteer services exception is not limited to low-value services, but includes all volunteer servics. FEC Advisory Opinion 2007-08, which I cited to, expressly takes this view as to volunteer performances by high-value entertainers at candidate events. And if such high-value volunteer help isn't a "contribution" and is thus exempt from the cap on donations by everyone, then it isn't a "contribution" and is thus exempt from the ban on donations by foreigners. That's the logic of U.S. election law, as reflected in the sources I mentioned in my earlier post.
The one possible response, I think, is that the federal law banning foreign contributions covers "contributions or donations," and not just "contributions." But I checked with several election lawyers on this, and their view is that the addition of "or donations" was understood as covering soft money, not as prohibiting volunteer services that would otherwise be allowed. Certainly nothing in the term "donation" suggests such a prohibition, or a distinction between high-value services and low-value services (and recall that the FEC has expressly said that volunteer services by foreigners are generally allowed).
Related Posts (on one page):
- More on Elton John Fundraising for Hillary Clinton:
- Foreign Musicians Voluteering to Raise Funds for American Candidates: