Union Tribune

July 11, 2003

Panel delays vote on issue similar to Issa's

By DANA WILKIE
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON The Federal Election Commission yesterday postponed until next week a vote that might suggest the outcome of a commission complaint that Rep. Darrell Issa of Vista broke the law while raising money to recall Gov. Gray Davis.

The commission the arbiter of federal campaign law appears split on whether an Arizona congressman who wants to raise money for a state ballot measure should follow a new federal law that is stricter than Arizona law.

The case involving Rep. Jeff Flake, a Republican, has strong similarities to Issa's situation. Issa, a Republican, runs a committee that's raising money to place a recall of the Democratic governor on the California ballot.

Recall supporters said this week they have gathered enough signatures to force a recall election this fall or next March.

The McCain-Feingold campaign-reform law, which Congress passed last year, restricts the involvement of federal lawmakers in state and local campaigns. Just how much it restricts them is a matter the FEC is debating.

Central to that debate is whether a state ballot campaign is the sort of "election" governed by the new law, also known as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.

The FEC's three Republican commissioners, who tend to think the law is too restrictive, argued yesterday that ballot campaigns don't fall under the law.

The three Democratic commissioners tended to argue otherwise.

One Democratic commissioner, Scott Thomas, said he is torn on the matter.

When the FEC tackles the issue again next Thursday, his is likely to be the deciding vote.