A federal judge here yesterday rejected a request from President Bush's campaign for an injunction against the Federal Election Commission that Bush attorneys hoped would ultimately halt the efforts of independent Democratic organizations working to defeat the president.
U.S. District Judge James Robertson said he agreed with Bush's attorneys that the FEC is "notoriously slow" in investigating and acting on complaints of political campaign violations, including the one the Bush camp lodged with the commission in March. But, the judge said, the law does not give him the power to act quickly against alleged violations of campaign law or demand that the FEC move more speedily.
"The FEC moves with glacial speed, but that's the way Congress set it up, because that's apparently the way Congress likes it," Robertson told Bush's attorneys.
With the election seven weeks away, the judge said he was issuing his rejection from the bench so the president's team could immediately appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals.
The Bush-Cheney campaign sued the FEC on Sept. 1 seeking an emergency court order. The suit accused the commission of failing to act on its March complaint and of allowing "irreparable harm" by not stopping the activities of advocacy groups that support Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry. Bush's attorneys said those groups, which include MoveOn.org, the Media Fund and America Coming Together, are engaged in "massive" and "ongoing" violations of election laws.
The president's lawyers argued that some "527" fundraising organizations, named for the section of the tax code that governs them, were illegally coordinating their efforts with Kerry's campaign and had spent $80 million in unrestricted donations from labor unions, corporate and individual donors for anti-Bush ads, and voter drives.
Robertson, appointed to the court by President Bill Clinton, noted that he was rejecting the president's request based on "an impeccable decision by Judge Kenneth Starr . . . decided, figuratively speaking, when the shoe was on the other foot."
Starr was the federal appellate judge who ruled in 1985 that the court could not order the FEC to act more quickly on a Democratic congressman's complaint. Starr was later the independent counsel in the Whitewater and Monica S. Lewinsky investigations of Clinton.