Appeals Court Upholds Ruling Ordering Reform Party to Pay Back Public Money

A federal appeals court upheld a ruling Friday ordering the Reform Party USA to pay the federal government $333,558 that regulators say was not spent properly during the party's 2000 presidential convention.

The opinion by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, however, is not expected to end the dispute between the Reform Party and the Federal Election Commission. Reform Party officials said they plan to pursue counter claims in court against the FEC.

While the case is being litigated, the Reform Party is not permitted to field and support a presidential candidate.

At issue are expenditures by the Reform Party during its raucous and contentious 2000 convention, which nominated Pat Buchanan for president. The party grew out of Ross Perot's 1996 presidential campaign.

The Reform Party was entitled to receive public money to help pay for its convention. A subsequent audit by the FEC concluded that the party "impermissibly" spent some of the public money on non-convention activities.

"We're confident that we can demonstrate that the funds were not misspent and that they were in effect reported, but not in the detail maybe that (the FEC) expected," party Chairman Charles Foster said Monday.