LITTLE ROCK — A state House committee said Wednesday it will recommend to the full House that a rule banning fundraising by House members during fiscal sessions be amended to exclude candidates for federal office.

LITTLE ROCK — A state House committee said Wednesday it will recommend to the full House that a rule banning fundraising by House members during fiscal sessions be amended to exclude candidates for federal office.


The House Rules Committee took up the issue at the request of Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, who is seeking the Republican nomination for the 4th District congressional seat. Westerman had asked the committee in a letter whether the fundraising ban applied to him and cited an advisory opinion by the Federal Election Commission that said a ban in Georgia on fundraising during a session by legislators running for federal office ran afoul of federal law.


During more than an hour of discussion, Rules Committee members debated whether to issue an interpretation of the House rule, recommend suspending it or recommend changing it, ultimately opting for the latter action.


Rep. Darrin Williams, D-Little Rock, said he believed it would set a dangerous precedent for the panel to interpret the rule in such a way as to include an exception that was not evident from a plain reading of it.


Williams also noted that the Senate bans fundraising by its members during regular sessions but not during fiscal sessions, and proposed recommending that the House suspend its rule. He said that under the rule as it stands, a House member running for a Senate seat could be barred from raising funds during a session while an opponent serving in the Senate would be under no such restriction.


Rep. Stephanie Malone, R-Fort Smith, the committee’s chairman, argued against suspending the rule.


"I think that suspending the rules to open this up to all House members to accept contributions is going to be a P.R. nightmare for anybody running for office. … You’re going to be pounced on," she said.


Westerman said after the meeting he was OK with the committee’s decision.


"They didn’t directly answer my question today, but I think we’re in the process of getting the answer," he said.