Judge Combines Campaign Finance Cases

A judge combined lawsuits filed by President Bush's campaign and sponsors of a 2002 campaign finance (search) law into one case seeking a federal crackdown on groups that spent big donations in last year's elections.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said Friday that the issues raised by the Bush campaign and Reps. Christopher Shays (search), R-Conn., and Marty Meehan (search), D-Mass., against the Federal Election Commission were virtually identical.

The Bush campaign, Shays and Meehan sued the FEC last year after it declined to restrict partisan interest groups spending tens of millions of dollars in the elections, much of it against Bush.

The campaign and lawmakers contend the groups' activities were illegal. They want Sullivan to order the commission to rein in the raising and spending of six- and seven-figure donations and require groups spending in federal elections to register with the FEC.

The commission contends the Bush campaign and the congressmen have no legal standing to sue it over the issue.

Sullivan scheduled a Sept. 13 hearing on the case. Lawyers will file written arguments starting in late April.