The Justice Department will decide within two weeks whether to present to a federal grand jury in Atlanta evidence of questionable campaign financing by former Budget Director Bert Lance.
The statute of limitations on this particular aspect of the Lance investigation runs out a few days before Thanksgiving Day, according to officials.
Justice Department attorneys recently visited Calhoun, Ga., according to sources in Calhoun and here, investigate the overdrafts at Calhoun First National Bank by the Lance campaign committees when he ran for governor in 1974. At the time, Lance was chairman of the bank.
The overdrafts themselves were not necessarily illegal, according to sources. But Justice attorneys were following up the investigation last summer by the Comptroller of the Currency that found that the bank did not charge interest on the overdrafts until it was ordered to do so by banking authorities.
According to a Justice Department spokesman, the federal law could be applied to a state election because a national bank is involved, and national banks are the creation of Congress.
He added that this interpretation was upheld in court last year in a case involving a contribution by a national bank to a race for a New York state judgeship.
Lance lost the Georgia Democratic gubernatorial primary in August, 1974.
The statute of limitations in this particular law runs out in three years. But a Justice Department attorney notes that "election day is not the measure."
The investigators are reviewing the growth of the overdrafts in the Lance campaign account, which reached a high of $152,706,29 on Nov. 22, 1974, some three months after the election, according to the report by the Comptroller.
The investigation is being conducted by the Justice Department's public integrity section, which was set up in 1976 to coordinate the prosecution of public officials.
It is part of a broad, multi-agency probe that has continued despite Lance's resignation in September. The findings are being coordinated by a three-man panel at the Justice Department, which will decide whether to submit the evidence to a grand jury.
Among those interviewed in Calhoun by Justice attorneys was J. B. Langford, who describes himself as Lance's "country lawyer," Langford, who is a good friend of President Carter and whose daughter Judy is married to the President's son Jack, managed Lance's gubernatorial campaign. He is also a state senator, Calhoun National board member and general counsel for the bank.