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DECEMBER 7, 1998   7:22 PM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Common Cause
Jeff Cronin or John Anthony, 202-736-5770
 
Common Cause Statement on Reno's Decision Not To Seek The Appointment Of An Independent Counsel To Investigate Campaign Finance Abuses
 
WASHINGTON - December 7 - Following is a statement by Common Cause President Ann McBride on Attorney General Reno's decision not to seek the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate campaign finance abuses:

"Attorney General Janet Reno today has taken a big step toward dismantling the federal election laws put into place after the Watergate scandals.

"While spending limits remain part of the presidential campaign finance law, the Attorney General's decision as a practical matter makes these limits largely meaningless because it approves a means of evading those limits that is so easy and transparent that future candidates will now surely do the same.

"By refusing to seek the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate the massive violations of the campaign finance law that took place in the 1996 presidential election, the Attorney General has shirked her obligation to enforce that law so that those who violate it face real consequences. Absent such enforcement, we can expect scandal and abuse in the 2000 election that will make 1996look like child's play.

"By relying on statements by members of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for her decision, the Attorney General is aligning herself with the FEC -- known as the Failure to Enforce Commission --which has been notorious for its partisanship and its weak and ineffective enforcement of the election law.

"Last week, the professional and nonpartisan auditors and lawyer sat the FEC found that the Clinton and Dole presidential campaigns in1996 engaged in an unprecedented scam to spend millions of dollars in violation of the presidential election spending limits. They did this by running multi-million dollar ad campaigns through their political parties as conduits.

"Even though these ads were written, directed, targeted and controlled by the presidential campaigns, and even though the ads looked like campaign ads, the campaigns disingenuously treated them as so-called party "issue ads." Under this scheme, according to the FEC staff, the Clinton campaign overspent a $30 million primary election spending limit by $46 million, and the Dole campaign spent $17 million outside the limits.

"Further, much of the money used to pay for these ads came from sources -- such as corporations, labor unions or foreign nationals -- that are illegal under federal law, or was in amounts well over the federal contribution limits. Thus, not only were the spending limits violated, but this scam was used to inject millions of dollars of non-federal money into the presidential election.

"But the Attorney General has, in effect, approved what happened in 1996. In doing so, she has undermined the credibility and integrity of the election laws. In 1996, the candidates ran roughshod over the law without facing any consequences. And now, because of the Attorney General's decision, we can be sure that candidates in the future will do so as well."

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