FEC approves matching funds for Buchanan

By Jonathan D. Salant, Associated Press, 12/16/99

WASHINGTON -- The Federal Election Commission unanimously voted today to give Patrick Buchanan millions of dollars in taxpayer funds for his presidential campaign despite his switch from the Republican to the Reform Party.

The FEC voted, 6-0, to approve the recommendation of its counsel, which concluded that Buchanan had been involved in one continuous campaign, despite changing political parties.

"His decision to change parties has no effect on his eligibility, the matchability of contributions to his campaign or the use of contributions and matching funds for campaign expenditures," the counsel's office said in a memo to the six-member commission.

Buchanan qualified for the matching funds by raising $5,000 in 20 different states in contributions of no more than $250 -- but as a Republican. The federal government matches the first $250 of each individual contribution. In exchange, candidates agree to limit their spending. The Buchanan campaign has submitted requests for $2.5 million in matching funds.

Separately, the federal government pays the entire cost of the presidential campaigns for the Republican and Democratic nominees -- about $66 million each -- following their party conventions. Once nominated, the Reform Party candidate will get $12.6 million for the general election.

The Buchanan campaign should just amend its filings to reflect that he is now seeking the nomination of the Reform Party, the counsel's office said.

"We'll just adjust that and continue as if we never changed parties," said Bay Buchanan, co-chairwoman and treasurer of the campaign. "There was never any bump in the road."

This is the first time since the federal government began in 1976 to pay part of the cost of presidential campaigns that a candidate switched parties midstream and asked to continue to receive matching funds.