WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Green Party won status as a national committee Thursday, recognition from federal election regulators that will allow it to collect larger campaign contributions.
The Federal Election Commission ruled 6-0 that the Green Party of the United States has established a national presence sufficient to gain the same legal status the Democratic and Republican parties have long held.
The national Green Party can now accept donations of up to $20,000 a year per donor and can pass money on to state and local party committees.
That provides an important new source of party-building finances for those committees, which can only accept contributions of up to $5,000 a year from each individual supporter.
``The decision of the FEC adds to the enormous momentum the Green Party now enjoys,'' said Dean Myerson, the party's political coordinator. ``We are running more candidates, electing more candidates, gaining more members and support.''
The Greens hope the additional money will help them collect the signatures and fight the legal battles sometimes required to land a spot on state ballots.
The new national standing doesn't guarantee the Greens the federal funding the GOP and Democratic Party receive to help finance their national conventions every four years. And it doesn't promise the Greens' presidential nominee the federal money Republican and Democratic presidential candidates draw for their primary and general election campaigns.
That's because the Green Party has yet to win the 5 percent of the national presidential vote needed to qualify for federal funding.
Green nominee Ralph Nader collected 3 percent of the popular vote last November. He made the ballot in 44 states.
The Greens last sought national committee status in 1996. The FEC said the party 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.
Other parties recognized by the FEC as national committees include the Reform, Libertarian, National Law and U.S. Taxpayers parties.
The Green Party has about 200,000 members nationally and chapters in more than 30 states and around the world.
It won at least 26 local seats in Tuesday's elections, including two seats on the Minneapolis city council.
The party has yet to win a congressional district. All 57 Green congressional candidates last year lost.