Keyes attacks Sun for reporting charges of campaign violations

July 08, 1992|By Douglas Birch | Douglas Birch,Staff Writer Staff writer C. Fraser Smith contributed to this article.

Republican Senate candidate Alan L. Keyes accused The Baltimore Sun of participating in a political "drive-by shooting" by publishing a story yesterday on a Democratic political group's allegation that Mr. Keyes broke federal election laws in his race against Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski.

Standing on the front steps of the newspaper's Calvert Street headquarters, the GOP candidate blasted The Sun and The Evening Sun for reporting the allegations before he was able to obtain a copy of the charges and rebut them in detail.

He also accused the newspapers of ignoring his campaign and writing more about Senator Mikulski's criticism of his ideas than the ideas themselves.

"Since when is this decent journalism?" he demanded. "It's the journalism of those hacks who are unfortunately, I think, besmirching the reputation of decent journalists in the state of Maryland by lending themselves to scurrilous, sleazy campaign tactics of my political opponents and the political establishment in this state."

Editor John S. Carroll pointed out that Mr. Keyes and his political director both are quoted responding to the Democratic group's charges in yesterday's story.

"We gave Mr. Keyes an opportunity to respond, and as the campaign continues, he'll have many other opportunities to have his say in the pages of The Sun, the same opportunity we give other candidates to express themselves," Mr. Carroll said.

During an intermission in a community forum last night in Northwest Baltimore, Ms. Mikulski denied any involvement in the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's report or the charges it made. She said the committee routinely scrutinizes the campaign finance reports of GOP candidates -- just as a Republican committee examines the reports filed by Democratic candidates. She declined to comment on the alleged violations.

The partisan Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) Monday accusing Mr. Keyes of improperly using the Campaign for Maryland's Future, described as a multicandidate fund-raising group, as "a stalking horse" for his 1992 Senate campaign.

The complaint also charges that Mr. Keyes, who was president of Citizens Against Government Waste for two years, wrongly turned CAGW into a "vehicle" for his campaign.

Mr. Keyes said Sun reporter C. Fraser Smith initially offered to give him a copy of the complaint Monday, but later refused.

Mr. Smith said he offered to provide the Keyes campaign with a copy of the complaint before the FEC received it. After learning that the FEC had, in fact, received it, Mr. Smith said he suggested that the campaign get it from the FEC. Keyes officials did not object, he said.

Sean Paige, Mr. Keyes' press secretary, said yesterday the FEC had refused to release the report "for at least a week." An FEC spokesman said that, by federal law, the commission's lawyers have up to five days after a complaint is filed to review it. Only then can they forward a copy to the accused.

Mr. Paige also offered a more detailed response to some of the Democratic committee's charges yesterday. The committee alleged that an $8,980.92 debt owed by the Keyes campaign to CAGW should have been repaid within 30 to 60 days. Mr. Paige pointed out that the FEC requires repayment only within "a commercially reasonable time."

The Democrats also charged that Mr. Keyes had received campaign contributions of $15,000 two months before he declared his candidacy Nov. 18, 1991. FEC rules require any candidate who receives more than $5,000 to file a statement of candidacy within 15 days.

Mr. Paige said the $15,000 contribution did not go to Mr. Keyes' campaign, but to a "test-the-waters" committee set up to decide if Mr. Keyes had enough support to join the race. The $5,000 limit does not apply to such committees, he said.

The Democratic committee pointed out that Mr. Keyes used the Committee Against Government Waste's contributor mailing list to raise cash for his campaign. Mr. Paige noted that campaigns are allowed to rent mailing lists for fund-raising purposes.

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