WASHINGTON – A watchdog group says it will file a complaint with federal election officials, accusing two conservative organizations of illegally helping Ralph Nader's (search) presidential campaign, possibly with support from President Bush's (search) re-election campaign.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington planned to file its complaint Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission. It says the Oregon Family Council (search) and Citizens for a Sound Economy (search) violated election laws last week by telephoning people and urging them to help Nader get on Oregon's ballot in November.
Spokesmen for both groups denied wrongdoing.
Both groups acknowledge trying to influence Nader's petition drive Saturday in Oregon, in hopes that getting him on the ballot would take votes away from Democrat John Kerry (search) and help Bush win the battleground state.
But Melanie Sloan, the watchdog group's executive director, said Tuesday that the conservative organizations are also corporations that are prohibited by election law from making campaign donations.
Sloan said she also would name the Nader and Bush campaigns in her complaint because of reports that some Bush-Cheney volunteers may have made similar calls from Bush campaign offices.
"If Bush-Cheney was soliciting those corporations to assist the Nader campaign, then that's a violation," she said.
Mike White, executive director of the Oregon Family Council, said there was no coordination with Bush's campaign.
"I had my volunteers call and encourage them to go to the (Nader) convention, but I don't think that's federal election activity," he said.
Chris Kinnan, spokesman for Citizens for a Sound Economy, said an outside lawyer assured him the phone calls were proper. "We're confident that we can answer any charge," he said.
Bush campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel said he had not seen the complaint but called it "frivolous."
"We will respond accordingly if and when we receive it," Stanzel said.
Sloan's group also filed an FEC complaint against Nader last week saying the consumer advocate violated federal campaign laws by accepting office space and telephone service from a public charity he created. Nader has called all the complaints frivolous.