More Stars on the Stump?

The Federal Election Commission says that King World’s Michael King, in part responsible for shows such as “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy,” can legally make contributions to charities as an incentive to encourage entertainers to volunteer for candidates. He had sought a ruling from the regulatory body on his plan to draw greater participation among musicians and other performers in political campaigns.

This is where it gets into a big of election law minutia: King, a longtime backer of Democrats, can now seek an entertainer to campaign for a candidate, and then offer to make a contribution to a charity in that performer’s name. King also plans to set up a foundation to collect contributions for this purpose, and the money would then be targeted to the various charities. King has said that he would like the money he collects or contributes to go to charities devoted to helping returning war veterans and their families.

Performers, like Bruce Springsteen campaigning with John Kerry in 2004, above right, are allowed to volunteer their services to a campaign without it being considered a contribution. King’s plan would presumably be an extra inducement to get them out on the campaign trail.

Under election law, King, right, couldn’t pay an entertainer to perform or appear on a candidate’s behalf because that would be considered a contribution to the campaign. And King has maxed out on one contender. He has contributed the limit of $4,600 to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

So the way election officials see it, King is making a charitable contribution, and the entertainer is acting as a volunteer.

The ruling was first reported on the Center for Responsive Politics’ Capital Eye website.

The campaign season already has seen a handful of celebs on the stump. Paul Simon recently campaigned through Iowa with Chris Dodd, and many more are expected as the primaries near. Musicians also have proven to be an extra draw at campaign fund-raisers, with stars like Barbra Streisand frequently volunteering their talents to help raise money for candidates and party committees.

The FEC ruled 4-1 on July 12 to approve King’s plan. The lone dissenter, Commissioner Steven Walther, told Capital Eye, “It seems like a true quid-pro-quo situation. If a person really wanted to be a contributor, there wouldn’t be any need to give the money to a charity—the entertainer would be there doing it regardless.”

King’s plan for a foundation to collect contributions would be resticted in that it could not endorse any candidate or engage in any kind of electioneering. What’s more, donations to Iraq war vets presumably would be enough of a bipartisan nature to appease critics. But one critic points out to the Capital Eye that the plan gives wealthy individuals a new way to influence elections, and may make it harder to follow the money trail.

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