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FEC Ruling on Buchanan Imminent

  • Big bucks and ballot access are hanging in the balance as the Federal Elections Commission approves the Reform Party nominee for president.
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By Clayton Potts

A ruling by the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) on Pat Buchanan's claim to the Reform party presidential nomination -- in which $12.6 million and ballot access in some states are at stake -- is due at any moment.

While legal experts believe Buchanan has an overwhelming case, spokesmen for John Hagelin, who imagines himself the nominee, say he will fight an adverse decision in federal court.

Courts are expected to expedite the case under the "time is of the essence" doc trine, but a delay of even a few days could be costly in gaining access to the ballot in some states.

The FEC and the courts can act quickly because of Buchanan's overpowering case. He was supported by nearly all of the convention delegates and by a two-to-one margin in the mail-in balloting.

Buchanan is certified as the candidate by the Reform Party chairman. Bu chanan is on the ballot in 20 states when 10 are enough for him to be proclaimed the candidate. He expects to be on the ballot in all states.

But when states are confronted with two people who claim to be the Reform candidates -- even in this Mutt-and-Jeff situation -- some have a difficult time coping.

Most states are facing deadlines of late August or early September for having their ballots prepared.

In Iowa, election officials put both names in a bowl and Buchanan gained the ballot spot by pure chance. Officials in Montana did the same and Hagelin won this draw.

In California, Republican Secretary of State Bill Jones took Bucha nan's name off the ballot -- another matter be fore the courts. As we went to press, the Bu chanan campaign confirmed that Bu chanan will be on the ballot.

Buchanan is on the ballot in Virginia as the Reform Party nominee. Hagelin is running under the name of the little-known party he founded which also "no minated" him, the Natural Law Party. Both met petition requirements.

Some states are putting both candidates on the ballot, some are allowing neither and some are putting the two on the ballot in different spots.

"Right now, we consider that party overnominated, so pending any withdrawal by one of the nominees or a court order, neither set of names will appear on the ballot," Larry Perosino, a spokesman for Connecticut's secretary of state, told Associated Press.

In Oklahoma, Kentucky, South Caro lina and Michigan, officials are wrestling with the problem and considering asking the FEC for guidance.

"We're trying to get clarification who is the real candidate," said Chris Thomas of the Michigan Board of Elections.

"There is no decision at this time as to which candidate will appear on Wyom ing's ballot," said Pat Arp, deputy secretary of state.

In Pennsylvania, Buchahan is the candidate. In Alabama, both will be listed as Independents and in Minnesota, the Re form party is considered a "minor" party although its governor, Jesse Ventura, was elected under its banner.

"There is no protection for the minor parties," said Mary Kiffmeyer, secretary of state. "This is a unique circumstance." Both Buchanan and Hagelin will be listed, she said.

Since Hagelin started the year as the Natural Law candidate, that's how West Virginia will list him, officials said. Ha gelin will be listed that way in Ohio with Buchanan on the ballot as an Inde pen dent.

Buchanan's New York supporters turn ed in petitions with more than 30,000 signatures, twice the number needed to be listed as the Reform candidate.

North Carolina's Board of Elections vo ted 3-1 to list Buchanan as the Reform candidate despite arguments by local Ha gelin backers. Utah will also carry Bu chanan as the Reform nominee.

Meanwhile, a federal judge in Lynch burg, Va., ruled on Aug. 30 that he lacks the jurisdiction to decide who is the nominee of the Reform party.

Buchanan backers sought an order barring Hagelin forces from operating under the Reform banner but U.S. Dis trict Judge Norman Moon said he lacked jurisdiction because the conflict did not raise any constitutional issue.

Buchanan accepted an invitation from Judicial Watch to join Vice President Al Gore and Constitution Party nominee Howard Phillips in a debate on restoring ethics in government. George W. Bush has not yet accepted the invitation from the government watchdog group. The date is still being worked out.