John Anderson's bid for the White House has been buoyed, at least temporarily , by the possibility of a hefty campaign check from Uncle Sam. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) Thursday voted to provide partial public financing for the Illinois congressman's campaign, providing he garners at least 5 percent of the vote in the Nov. 4 election.
Not a penny of that money will be forthcoming for at least two months. But the ruling gives the Anderson campaign something against which to borrow money to step up its drive for votes.
If Mr. Anderson polls 17 percent of the vote, for example, he could qualify for up to $13 million to meet campaign expenses.
The conditional funding recommended by the commission's staff, came on a 5 -to-1 vote. John McGarry, a Massachusetts Democrat and close friend of US House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill Jr., was the lone dissenter.
Four years ago, Eugene McCarthy, then an independent candidate for president, was denied federal campaign funds by the FEC.
But even with this apparent victory, the Anderson campaign still faces several hurdles.
Anderson needs 15 percent showing in the polls by Sept. 10. Without it, the League of Women Voters will eliminate him from the coming presidential candidate debate lineup.
The candidate and his forces still are battling to get him on the ballot in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.
This effort was dealt at least a temporary setback Sept. 4 in President Jimmy Carter's home state of Georgia.
With the certification process nearing completion, Georgia election officials have disallowed some 16,000 of the 70,849 signatures submitted, leaving Anderson with close to 2,700 fewer signatures than the 57,539 required to qualify.
Unless reversed, the decision means Anderson might not conduct a pre-November political march through Georgia, much less run there. Georgia might well be the only state where the independent candidate's name will not be on the ballot.
"We will definitely challenge them," says Mitchell Rogovin, chief counsel for the Anderson campaign in discussing the Georgia setback. He notes that all previous roadblocks to the Illinois congressman's efforts to get on various state ballots have been decided in his favor.
At least five of these court victories, however, have been appealed by state election officials in Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, and Ohio, and by the Democratic National Committee in North Carolina.
At issue in all but the latter was the timeliness of the Anderson nomination paper filings because the statutory deadline for submitting signatures had passed before the congressman launched his campaign as an independent in late April.
The North Carolina dispute centers on whether Anderson can run in that state as an independent, because his name was on the Republican presidential preference primary ballot last spring. In all other states, federal district court judges have upheld the candidate's right to a place on the November ballot , even though he may have been listed as a Republican during the primaries.
Anderson nomination papers thus far have been filed in the District of Columbia and 41 states, including Georgia. And similar documents, containing the required voter signatures, are due to be submitted in three others -- Arkansas, Hawaii, and Vermont -- today.