President Carter's reelection committee will file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that the various draft-Kennedy groups are actually part of a coordinated effort that may have already exceeded legal funding limits, according to Carter campaign committee sources.
The Carter-Mondale Committee's complaint contends that the "principal purpose" of the draft-Kennedy groups is to defeat the president in the upcoming Florida caucuses and straw ballot convention, according to a copy of the document that has been obtained by The Washington Post. Committee officials said that the complaint most likely will be filed today.
The Carter-Mondale complaint charges that the "initial funding and political communications network" for the draft-Kennedy effort has been provided by groups and individuals including the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and its president, William Winpisinger, and a former Carter White House political aide, Mark A. Siegel, who is now actively pro-Kennedy.
The FEC has ruled that the draft-Kennedy committees can accept donations of up to $5,000 from individuals -- which is $4,000 more than the $1,000 limit on contributions to committees for actual candidates or for those, like President Carter, who are considered certain to become candidates.
The ruling that the draft-Kennedy groups are unconnected meant that individuals could, in effect, give $25,000 to efforts to elect Sen. Edward M. Kennedy president, since that is the overall limit on political contributions that an individual can make in one year.
It also meant, in effect, that a political action committee can contribute up to $5,000 each to an unlimited number of Kennedy committees. In the case of an actual candidate, by contrast, the limit for a PAC is $5,000 total.
The Carter-Mondale group is seeking to hold the draft-Kennedy effort to the limits which the president's committee must obey.
"The facts . . . show the continuing existence of a common and coordinated strategy among the respondent committees . . . ," the complaint states. "Their common strategy at present is clearly to funnel money and people to the Florida for Kennedy Committee in connection with the Oct. 13th caucuses and the Nov. 18th state party convention vote in Florida."
The first of three counts in the complaint asks the FCC to find that the Kennedy groups are indeed affiliated, and to then require regular registration and reporting of contributions and expenditures by the draft-Kennedy committees, to prohibit them from accepting contributions that exceed the present limits, and to return any contributions that now exceed the limits.
"Under the circumstances, time is obviously of the essence," the complaint states, in urging the FEC to expedite its ruling.
In the second of the three counts in the complaint, the Carter committee charges specifically that the political action committee of the machinists' union -- the Machinsts' Nonpartisan Political League -- has made "illegal contributions" because they have exceeded the amount permitted to committees of recognized federal candidates.
And in the third count, the Carter committee alleges that two specific draft-Kennedy groups -- the National Call for Kennedy (which is headed by machinists president Winpisinger) and the Democrats for Change -- 1980 -- have failed to register with the FEC or to disclose their contributors and expenditures.
The Democrats for Change includes a number of wealthy liberal California Democrats, including television producer Norman Lear, Warner Brothers executive Ted Ashley, and Leopold Wyler, who hosted a party two years ago that was attended by Carter assistant Hamilton Jordan and who recently came forward publicly to say that he had heard that drugs were used at that party and that Jordan and others had acted in a "licentious" manner at the party.
Those named in the complaint denied any impropriety -- as did one prominent individual who was not named, Kennedy himself. "We have no involvement whatever with these groups . . . in fact, we've disavowed them," said Kennedy's spokesman, Thomas Southwick. "We expect everyone to abide by the FEC rules." He said Kennedy does plan to authorize the formation of an exploratory presidential campaign committee sometime in November, before making his final decision on whether or not to actively challenge Carter for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1980.
Machinists union president Winpisinger, told of the Carter-Mondale complaint, said:
"I've been waiting for this. It is, in a word, bull - - - . We have researched the law very carefully and followed it meticulously. Whatever committees have been formed were formed spontaneously, and whatever they have done was done spontaneously. All I ever did was communicate with my own union members . . . around the country." A Washington Post survey has shown that the machinists' union has contributed approximately $20,000 to draft-Kennedy groups nationwide.