FEC, Reagan Campaign team in legal clash

By , Staff correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

The Reagan Bush Committee, which headed President Reagan's successful election effort, has brought suit against the Federal Election Commission to hold up an FEC audit of its 1980 campaign expenses.

The FEC "interim" audit reportedly could require the Reagan Bush Committee to return $1,583,755 to the federal Treasury.

Neither FEC spokesmen nor attorneys for the Reagan Bush campaign would identify for the Monitor the nature of the $1.6 million in disputed expenditures.

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The FEC says civil or other violations of federal election law may be at issue, as the result of a final audit.

The Reagan Bush attorneys, in their request for a preliminary injunction against the FEC's release of the report (filed in US District Court here Aug. 11 ) argued their clients would "suffer irreparable damage, loss, and injury in several respects, including . . . unnecessary and unwarranted exposure to severe damage to their good name and reputation, as well as to that of the various individuals associated with plaintiffs." Reagan Bush attorney's also complain their clients would be subject to "exposure to enforcement proceedings" under the "civil and criminal provisions" of election law.

The Reagan Bush attorneys told the Monitor they were seeking both a temporary and permanent injunction against the FEC's completion of the audit, arguing they have not had time to detail their response to the preliminary FEC findings, or full access to FEC materials.

"It appears they just don't want the audit released," says Fred Eiland, spokesman for the FEC.

The FEC began its audit of the Reagan Bush Committee, Reagan Bush Compliance Fund, and Democrats for Reagan in January 1981. "The field work was completed in March," Mr. Eiland says. The FEC examiners held an "exit conference" with the Reagan Bush staff to go over the details of their findings at that time.

"They have a chance to have all documents relating to an audit discussed," Eiland says. And throughout, Reagan Bush representatives have been able to contact the FEC on details of law or findings, he adds.

The Reagan Bush Committee got a copy of the interim FEC audit in mid June, for a month's review. It asked for and received a two-week extention until Aug. 11 before responding, whereupon the committee then went to US District Court in Washington for an injunction against release of the report.

The FEC must review the case again before issuing a final audit, and deciding whether to turn the matter over to federal attorneys.

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