Suit seeks to get FEC to act on complaint against Ashcroft

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

Associated Press WriterWASHINGTON (AP) -- A campaign overhaul group filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to get the Federal Election Commission to act on a year-old complaint involving Attorney General John Ashcroft.

The complaint alleges that in his 2000 Senate re-election campaign, Ashcroft took a contribution in excess of federal fund-raising limits and failed to report it.

The National Voting Rights Institute's lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, asks a judge to order the FEC to rule on the complaint within 30 days. The FEC can dismiss the case, impose civil fines or forward matters to the Justice Department -- which Ashcroft now heads -- for criminal investigation.

FEC spokeswoman Kelly Huff declined to comment on the lawsuit and said she could not comment on the Ashcroft complaint because it remains under review.

The allegations against Ashcroft center on a mailing list of contributors developed during Ashcroft's 1998 presidential exploration effort. One political action committee, Spirit of America, built the list and Ashcroft's Senate re-election committee then used it to raise more than $116,000, according to the complaint.

Renting mailing lists is a common practice among fund-raisers. But under federal election rules, donating a mailing list is the same as making a campaign contribution and is subject to the same $10,000 limit.

The institute is suing on behalf of the Alliance for Democracy, a group pushing for full public funding of elections, and two of Missouri voters, Hedy Epstein and Ben Kjelshus.

The treasurer for both committees, Garrett Lott, said, "The complaint is without merit and will be dismissed."

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