Hart Campaign To Receive Federal Matching Funds
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Gary Hart’s reborn campaign for the White House won approval Monday for a much-needed infusion of $100,000 in federal matching money, the first installment of what could be nearly $1 million from the U.S. Treasury.
The Federal Election Commission voted 6-0 to certify the Democratic presidential hopeful as eligible for matching funds, based on money he raised last spring before dropping out of the race the first time.
″It’s great,″ said Hart campaign manager Sue Casey in a telephone interview from Denver. ″In addition to knowing the money is on the way, it means we will get on the ballot in several states.″
Eligibility for matching funds is one criterion used in some states in deciding which candidates are listed on the primary ballots. In South Dakota, for one, only candidates who have qualified can be listed on that Feb. 23 ballot.
Casey said the money, due to be sent out by the Treasury on Jan. 4, would go to pay for plane tickets, telephones in Denver and New Hampshire and office rent.
FEC spokeswoman Sharon Snyder said the commission approved Hart’s ″threshold submission″ after receiving a letter from the former Colorado senator dated Dec. 19, declaring officially he is back in the race.
In May, Hart dropped out of the battle for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination amid a firestorm of criticism about his relationship with a Miami model. He applied for matching funds after his withdrawal, but the FEC turned that request down.
On Dec. 15 Hart jumped back into the race, declaring ″I don’t have any money.″ Then he reapplied for matching money, based on the funds raised in the spring.
Presidential candidates can win eligibility for federal matching funds by raising at least $5,000 in individual contributions of $250 or less in at least 20 states. Once eligible, all individual contributions up to $250 are matched dollar for dollar by money from the treasury. Those funds comes from the voluntary $1 checkoff on personal income tax returns.
FEC auditors certified matchable contributions to Hart from 21 states totaling $118,136 as the basis for the full commission vote. A candidate receives only $100,000 in matching funds from a threshold submission, with the remaining funds considered the second time the campaign files for matching money.
Bernie Schneider, a Newport Beach, Calif., attorney working for the Hart campaign, has said previously that Hart’s spring campaign raised enough in matchable contributions to qualify for $940,000 in matching funds.
Casey said the campaign hopes that $500,000 or more in matching money will be available to the campaign by the end of January.
″If that works out, we’ll be fine. It will allow us to do more to reach out to voters,″ she said. ″If not, we’ll just go out and do what we can with the money that comes in.″
The matching money will start to move from the U.S. Treasury on Monday, following the long holiday weekend, with more than $25 million due to be distributed in the first transfers to Republican and Democratic candidates.
Twelve of the 13 major hopefuls have been certified as eligible. The FEC has not yet taken action on Democrat Jesse Jackson’s submission for eligibility.
Before Hart’s re-entry, his campaign reported that through Sept. 30, it had raised $2.2 million. The campaign then showed $101,569 cash on hand and $53,625 in debts.
But it is debts from Hart’s 1984 campaign which dogged him as he sought the 1988 nomination.
Creditors from that campaign, saying they are still owed more than $1 million, had badgered Hart earlier this year with lawsuits and other tactics designed to get the old bills paid.
Hart had asked the FEC for permission to use the 1988 money to pay off the old bills, but the FEC declined to decide the matter after Hart dropped out.