Clinton, Giuliani fund-raising committees are assailed

By Mike Allen, Washington Post, 4/6/2000

ASHINGTON - Two groups seeking to curb money's role in politics have charged that both candidates in the New York Senate race are violating ''the spirit and letter of the federal election laws'' with party fund-raising committees that can accept unlimited donations.

''First Lady Hillary Clinton and Mayor (Rudolph W.) Giuliani are thumbing their noses at the federal campaign finance laws,'' said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a nonpartisan organization.

A federal candidate can accept donations from individuals of no more than $1,000. But in a move that allows them to take unlimited checks, Clinton set up a ''New York Senate 2000 Committee'' in conjunction with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and New York Mayor Giuliani followed suit with a ''Giuliani Victory Committee'' with the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Democracy 21 and Common Cause filed a 13-page complaint with the Federal Election Commission, asking it to negotiate with the campaigns or take them to court to stop the practice.

Jim Jordan, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee political director, said donors to Clinton's party committee are told that their contributions will not necessarily be spent in New York. ''Their complaint is frivolous, intellectually dishonest and utterly without merit, and this committee is currently contemplating cross-filing for sanctions and lawyer's fees,'' Jordan said. Clinton's spokesman, Howard Wolfson, said, ''All of our fund-raising is completely legal.''

Wertheimer was joined Tuesday by Scott Harshbarger, president of Common Cause and a former Massachusetts attorney general.

The Democratic senatorial committee crashed the news conference and handed out clippings showing Harshbarger had benefited from party donations during his unsuccessful 1998 bid for governor. Harshbarger replied that rejecting unregulated money is easier said than done. ''It's almost impossible if you're in the system and running for office to do it yourself,'' he said. ''That's why the reforms are so important.''