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Hart Asks FEC for Funds; May Not Be Eligible

May 19, 1987|DAVID LAUTER | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Gary Hart formally asked the Federal Election Commission on Monday for federal matching funds for his aborted Democratic presidential bid, but his aides admitted that he faces "formidable" legal barriers to receiving any of the money.

Hart's campaign officials estimate that, if the FEC accepts all their claims, Hart will receive $940,000 in federal funds. Because the former candidate's 1988 campaign would show a small surplus without the matching funds, they say, he could use the matching funds to pay back some of the roughly $1.3 million he owes from his 1984 presidential campaign.

The federal government provides matching funds to all candidates who prove that they can raise substantial funds on their own. Hart's chief hurdle, his lawyers say, is the requirement that a candidate who asks for matching money must certify that he "is seeking" the presidential nomination.

Signed May 4

Hart signed a document certifying his candidacy on May 4, just as his campaign began to fall apart amid allegations that the candidate had spent the preceding weekend in Washington with Miami actress Donna Rice.

The campaign collapsed faster than Hart's aides could put together the voluminous paper work--three thick binders filled with alphabetized photocopies of checks and bank deposit slips--needed to document the matching-fund request. The former Colorado senator withdrew from the presidential race May 8.

In a letter to the FEC on Monday, Hart's lawyers argued that he should not be penalized merely because of the timing of his request. Had Hart filed his documents and then withdrawn, he clearly would be eligible for the money, the lawyers wrote, saying the FEC "should review (Hart's) certification for its accuracy at the time," not for its accuracy now.

The FEC is expected to rule on Hart's request for matching funds late this month or early in June.

If Hart wins that ruling, he must still persuade the FEC to allow him to use 1988 campaign money to pay 1984 debts. Commission officials say that a ruling on that matter would not be likely before late July.

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