Questions Raised About Ashcroft's Fundraising

by TChris

Did John Ashcoft tell a fib to the Federal Election Commission?

By renting out a political mailing list, Ashcroft's Spirit of America PAC made $165,000 in 1999 and 2000. It transferred $112,000 of those funds to Ashcroft's 2000 Senate reelection campaign committee. But the PAC had already donated the maximum permitted by law, so the FEC wondered whether the transfer was illegal. Ashcroft's campaign committee insisted that Ashcroft owned the mailing list that generated the funds, exempting the fund transfers from contribution limits. After a two year investigation, the FEC disageed.

[T]he FEC last year rejected that assertion because Ashcroft did not disclose his ownership or the rental income in his 1998 and 1999 Senate financial disclosures. He has also not listed the mailing list as an asset in his required filings as attorney general.


Ashcroft's spokesman at the Justice Department is calling all of this old news. Last year, the PAC and the campaign committee raised $100,000 to pay fines and costs resulting from the campaign finance violations. Case closed, says Ashcroft's man. But some of that money again came from renting out the mailing list.

The way the fines were paid disturbs John Bonifaz, general counsel of the Massachusetts-based National Voting Rights Institute (NVRI), which filed the original FEC complaint against Ashcroft and his committees.

"It is unseemly for the nation's chief law enforcement officer, whose committees are under investigation, to use those very committees to raise funds from campaign contributors as a means for defending against possible criminal charges and paying civil fines," Bonifaz said. "Ashcroft is very powerful, and people who get called are going to feel pressure to make such contributions."

The NVRI is one of several organizations asserting that Ashcroft violated the law, either by failing to disclose the mailing list as an asset in his financial disclosure statements as attorney general, or by conspiring to defraud the FEC by claiming ownership of a list he did not own. Last week, the NVRI asked Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine to investigate "potential civil and criminal violations of federal law" by the two committees and Ashcroft while he has been attorney general.

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