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FEC awards Reform Party funds to Buchanan

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Federal Election Commission awarded the Reform Party's $12.6 million in federal matching funds to commentator Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign Tuesday, effectively recognizing him as the nominee of the fractured third party.

FEC

Buchanan, the longtime conservative pundit, former Republican White House aide and sometime CNN commentator, and Iowa physicist John Hagelin each claim to be the rightful Reform presidential nominee. The FEC sided with Buchanan in a 5-1 preliminary ruling after a public hearing Tuesday, and a final ruling could come by week's end.

Hagelin's supporters vowed to appeal the decision, but Buchanan told CNN he already has big plans to use the money to support a wide-ranging presidential effort.

"We're going to have to spend a million-and-a-half dollars a week," he said. "We're going to spend it on radio ads, which I'm going to do myself. We're going to spend it on television ads. We're going to go into states that Bush has written off ... We're going to go into swing states where I do well."

Buchanan
Buchanan  

Buchanan currently posts less than two percent of the vote in most polls. He said he can mount a credible challenge to the major parties, "But I need time, and we need to deal with issues that others aren't dealing with."

He is also seeking a court order allowing him to participate in the presidential debates with Democratic nominee Al Gore and Republican nominee George W. Bush.

Buchanan called the two major parties "Xerox copies of one another, both of them funded by the same big, fat lobbyists and corporations who are buying and selling trade policy and foreign policy in this capital city ... This is a vapid, boring campaign."

The Reform Party split into rival factions behind each candidate at a raucous convention in Long Beach, California, last month, and each side asked the FEC to award it the matching funds.

The party qualified for federal matching funds after founder Ross Perot's 8 percent showing in the 1996 presidential race. Perot submitted an affidavit in favor of the funds being dispersed to Hagelin, marking the Texas billionaire's first public statement on the controversy that has so far plagued the organization.

Perot went for months without making any public comment on the disputes that wracked his party, but Buchanan said Tuesday he believed Perot was backing his opponents financially, and said Perot allies would rather "rule or ruin" the party than see anyone else succeed.

The only dissenting vote on the FEC came from Commissioner Karl Sandstrom, who said a federal court was a better venue to settle the matter.

Hagelin
Hagelin  

The Reform Party was riven by a dispute between Perot supporters and backers of Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura when Buchanan bolted the Republican Party in October 1999 to seek its nomination -- with the encouragement of many of Perot's allies. Ventura, then the party's highest ranking elected official, quit the party in protest.

But Buchanan's conservative views on social issues such as abortion and immigration quickly alienated party veterans committed to Perot's policy of neutrality on those questions.

Hagelin is also the nominee of the Natural Law Party. But the FEC found Hagelin appeared as a Reform Party nominee in only three states -- far less than the 10 required for federal support. Hagelin lawyer Kirk Jowers said his candidate would appeal Tuesday's ruling to a Washington appellate court.

Hagelin supporters walked out of the Buchanan-dominated Long Beach convention and set up their own around the corner. Party leaders who split with Buchanan disqualified him from Reform's write-in primary and declared Hagelin their nominee.

CNN National Correspondent Bob Franken and CNN.com Writer Matt Smith contributed to this report.

 
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Tuesday, September 12, 2000


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