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Attorneys with National Voting Rights Institute — who filed suit last year against the Federal Election Commission for failing to resolve a complaint concerning alleged violations by former Sen. John Ashcroft’s (R-Mo.) failed 2000 re-election campaign — declared a minor victory this week in the ongoing court battle. [IMGCAP(1)]

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan refused to dismiss NVRI’s case and required the FEC to answer, by Aug. 30, certain questions about its handling of the complaint.

‘This ruling is a major victory for accountability in government,” said Lisa Danetz, an attorney with the NVRI and lead counsel for the plaintiffs, who also include two Missouri voters. ‘This matter involved serious charges against the attorney general’s 2000 Senate campaign committee and his leadership PAC.”

The case revolves around a February 2001 Washington Post report that the Spirit of America PAC, Ashcroft’s leadership committee, had contributed a fundraising list containing 100,000 donor names to Ashcroft’s Senate committee, thus making an illegal contribution.

In 2001, an Ashcroft aide told the Post that ‘all activities involved in handling the list were in accordance with FEC guidelines.”

The FEC does not comment on pending legal matters.

No Leftovers. Ex-Sen. Bob Smith (R-N.H.) just can’t seem to catch a break.

After losing his re-election battle in a primary last fall, the former Senator decided to form a charitable organization called the American Patriot Foundation. Recently, he asked the FEC if he could transfer $60,000 in leftover campaign funds to the group.

But it looks like the FEC will be nixing his plan.

In a proposed advisory opinion on this, which the commission is set to vote on Thursday, the FEC states that because Smith had tried to refund the $60,000 in excess contributions to the original contributors — the checks were never cashed, leaving the money in his campaign coffers — he has to return it to Uncle Sam.

Although FEC rules ‘do not specifically address the situation where an attempt to refund contributions proves unsuccessful,” the draft opinion finds that ‘in analogous circumstances the regulations require disgorgement to the United States Treasury.”

‘Therefore, the [campaign] must deliver to the [FEC] a check in the full amount of the designated contributions payable to the Treasury of the United States,” the opinion states.

— Amy Keller

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