Robertson’s Lawyer Says Campaign Hasn’t Used Matching Funds With AM-Elections Rdp Bjt
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Pat Robertson’s campaign lawyer contended Tuesday that the campaign has not used the $6.5 million it received in federal matching funds even though its financial report shows it has less than that on hand.
The matching funds were used to secure a $5.5 million loan during January, said campaign attorney Marion Harrison, but he added that the campaign does not consider that was using the money.
″The matching funds are 100 percent in an escrow account,″ and none has been spent, Harrison said in a telephone interview.
When asked why the campaign’s financial statement filed with the Federal Election Commission showed $5.5 million in cash on hand, $1 million less than the matching funds he said were in the bank, Harrison said he did not prepare the report and could not explain it.
Campaign aides did not return calls Monday and Tuesday to answer questions about the report.
Whether or not the Robertson campaign has accepted the matching funds is significant because presidential candidates who are declared eligible for such funds must abide by spending limits under federal regulations.
The Robertson campaign contends that it does not have to abide by the limits unless it actually uses the money, and considers that although it put the funds into its bank, it still has the option of sending the money back and bypassing the spending limts, said Harrison.
″That will be our contention if we decide not to accept them,″ Harrison said. ″It’s a decision that hasn’t been made yet.″
FEC spokesman Fred Eiland said, ″That’s sort of a dubious argument, but the commission would have to answer that.″
He noted that candidates must sign an agreement to abide by the spending limits even before they actually get the matching funds.
The spending cap issue is more important for Robertson than for any other presidential candidate because he is by far the closest to the limit.
The cap is $23 million for the primary season plus another 20 percent, or $4.6 million, allowed for fund-raising expenses.
As of the end of January, Robertson reported spending $17.6 million against the $23 million cap, plus $4.3 million against the fund-raising cap.
Those figures did not include February’s spending toward the Iowa and New Hampshire contests, Tuesday’s South Dakota and Minnesota contests or the Super Tuesday primaries in 20 states on March 8.
Harrison said the $5.5 million loan from Sovran Bank in Virginia was secured, but neither he nor the bank’s regional executive officer, Earl Slattum, would disclose what collateral was required.
The loan was bigger by far than any taken out by the other candidates.
Election law requires that banks treat presidential campaign loans in the normal course of business, with no special considerations applied.
Slattum cited customer privacy considerations and refused to divulge any information about Robertson’s loan, the bank’s general lending practices, or even the cities included in the region Slattum heads.
Slattum and Harrison also declined to give the date the loan was taken out although FEC spokesman Eiland said that is required on the disclosure reports. The report listed the date only as January 1988.
Robertson also used his matching funds to secure a $1.5 million loan in December from Sovran Bank. That loan was paid back on Jan. 10.
Robertson reported spending during January of $7.9 million, more than any other presidential campaign, and ended the month with $5.5 million in cash on hand and $6 million in outstanding debts.