Politics & Government

FEC resets campaign donation limits for NC congressional races

North Carolina’s June 7 congressional primaries just got more expensive.

The Federal Elections Commission ruled Thursday that the state’s court-ordered congressional redistricting effectively creates a new election cycle – meaning that donors who had hit the maximum contribution level of $2,700 in congressional races before March 15 can now donate again.

The question was brought by U.S. Rep. George Holding’s campaign. The Raleigh Republican is facing one of the toughest primaries in the state because the new district lines prompted him to run against fellow GOP incumbent Rep. Renee Ellmers in the 2nd District.

“The June 7, 2016, North Carolina congressional primary election is a different election from the March 15, 2016, election,” the FEC’s opinion said after a 6-0 vote Thursday morning.

The advisory opinion notes that the March 15 primary election in previous congressional districts was “already well under way by the time the three-judge panel issued its order.” Candidates in the old districts remained on the ballot, but the results of the primary weren’t released under state law.

“Thus, the March 15 primary elections were held as planned, with congressional candidates on the ballot, even if the State Board of Elections could not subsequently certify the votes cast for congressional candidates,” the opinion says.

Holding’s campaign consultant, Carter Wrenn, praised the FEC’s decision. The congressman, he said, is “running in a different district, with a different set of opponents and a whole lot of new voters.”

Wrenn said the “a fair amount” of Holding’s donors had hit the contribution limit before the March 15 primary. “It’s helpful because it means we’ll have more money to get our message out,” he added.

But Greg Brannon, a Cary obstretrician who’s running against Holding and Ellmers, could find that his fundraising disadvantage will grow because of the FEC action.

“The FEC just gave Rep. Renee Ellmers and Rep. George Holding a free pass to double down on contributions from their favorite special interest donors,” Brannon said in an email. “We’ve known for some time that Holding and Ellmers are beholden to Washington special interests, the chief among these being the Wall Street banking elite.”

Another candidate who might benefit from the decision is U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, the Democrat whose Greensboro-to-Charlotte district was redrawn to include only Mecklenburg County.

She’s now facing six opponents in the Democratic primary, and only one of them was running for the 12th District seat before March. Her campaign declined to comment on the FEC action Thursday.

Read the full opinion here.

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter