- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 5, 2000

Fund raising for Giuliani, Hillary in New York at issue

A complaint filed yesterday with the Federal Election Commission charges both political parties with using "ongoing illegal schemes" to benefit New York Senate candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton and Rudolph W. Giuliani.

The complaint from political watchdog groups Common Cause and Democracy 21 accuses both the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee of accepting unlimited contributions to parties, known as "soft money," and injecting the money into the two Senate campaigns.

"We call it a scheme among the candidate committees, the national campaign committees and the state party to funnel soft money into the Senate campaigns," said Don Simon, general counsel for Common Cause, in an interview yesterday with The Washington Times. "This is really an evolutionary step in the use of soft money in federal campaigns."

The establishment of "joint fund-raising" committees by both parties, Mr. Simon said, has allowed contributions to the respective party committees to be spent on the Senate races and placed into the candidates' coffers in excess of the legal limits.

"Everyone knows precisely what is going on here," said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, in a prepared statement yesterday. "The Clinton and Giuliani campaigns are thumbing their noses at the federal campaign finance laws … treating the voters of New York as if they were fools."

No illegal or unethical arrangement exists, said Jim Jordan, political director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

"The legality of these [committees] is not in question," Mr. Jordan said. "Joint funding committees are a creation of federal law. We have operated in accordance with that law. What more can we do?"

The Clinton campaign had raised several million dollars with its joint funding committee, called "New York Senate 2000," through March, Mr. Jordan said.

A National Republican Senatorial Committee called yesterday's complaint "frivolous."

Donations to any of the three Republican joint fund-raising committees are scrupulously accounted for, Stuart Roy said.

"Individuals are prohibited by law from writing two separate checks [at a fund-raiser], one to the NRSC and one to the candidate," Mr. Roy said. "So $2,000 [of one donation] goes to Giuliani, then the rest goes to the NRSC."

The Giuliani campaign did not return calls yesterday. A spokeswoman for the Clinton campaign declined to comment.

Soft money cannot legally be spent on advertising for a specific candidate but can be used for issue ads that benefit them, and for "get-out-the-vote" and other activities on behalf of the party.

An attorney for Metabolife International Inc., a California-based vitamin company, said he handled a $25,000 contribution to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in September, money that he knew would go to help Mrs. Clinton's campaign.

"We were giving party-building money and I knew that the biggest Senate contest was going to be in New York, so we knew where the money was going," Gary Morrow said. "This is exactly how the law was written, and it is exactly how Congress intended. If they want to change things, they could probably make a good argument for it."

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