WASHINGTON The Green Party is a step closer to gaining the national committee status long granted to Democrats and Republicans, a move that would give it an immediate fund-raising boost.
The Federal Election Commission staff is recommending that the agency recognize the Green Party of the United States as a national committee. The commissioners are to consider the proposal Thursday.
Such national status would give the Green Party a new fund-raising mechanism.
As a national committee, the Green Party could accept donations of up to $20,000 a year from each contributor, money it could pass on to state and local party committees. Those committees can only accept contributions of up to $5,000 a year per donor.
The new status alone would be a plus, said Green Party attorney Thomas Alan Linzey.
It would show "this is the Green Party coming of age, moving from being an assortment of independent state parties to formally claiming federal status," Linzey said.
National status also would make it easier to recruit national caliber candidates, he said.
But it wouldn't necessarily entitle the party to the federal funding the Republican and Democratic parties rely on to help finance their national conventions every four years. Republican and Democratic presidential candidates also typically receive federal funds for their primary and general election campaigns.
The Green Party has yet to win 5 percent of the national presidential vote, which is needed to qualify for federal funding. Green nominee and consumer advocate Ralph Nader drew 3 percent of the popular vote last November.
National committee status also wouldn't guarantee Green candidates a spot on the ballot in every state, said Ted Arrington, a University of North Carolina-Charlotte political scientist.
Each state has its own requirements to qualify, and many are set up to discourage third parties, he said.
"If we're looking to say all of a sudden voters are going to look at them more seriously if this happens, that's not going to happen," Arrington said. "Voters don't care. Voters don't know what it means."
Voters typically back a Green candidate if they're dissatisfied with the major party candidates, he said.
Winning ballot status has been the Greens' major problem historically, said Paul Allen Beck, an Ohio State political science professor.
Because Nader drew less than 5 percent of the presidential vote, the Green Party will be off the ballots in most states, requiring many of its candidates to qualify by collecting a certain number of signatures, Beck said.
Nader ultimately made the ballot in 44 states in the 2000 presidential election, according to the FEC.
Linzey agreed with the political scientists' comments about state ballots. But he said the fund-raising boost national committee status would bring would help state Green Party committees finance the legal battles that sometimes are required to win a spot on the ballot.
The Greens last sought national committee status in 1996. The FEC said it had not met the requirements, which include nominating candidates for various federal offices in several states, engaging in ongoing activities such as voter registration and publicizing party issues nationally.
Others turned down by the FEC include the Populist Party and the Pyramid Freedom Party.
Several parties are recognized by the FEC as national committees, including the Libertarian, Reform, National Law and U.S. Taxpayers parties.
The Green Party has about 200,000 members nationally and official chapters in more than 30 states. The party also has chapters around the world.
There were 57 Green Party congressional candidates last year; all lost.
On the Net:
Green Party: http://www.greenpartyus.org/
Federal Election Commission: http://www.fec.gov/
© Copyright 2001 The Associated Press