WASHINGTON – A liberal blogger has filed a federal complaint against former Sen. Fred Thompson, the actor and unannounced Republican candidate for president, accusing him of violating election laws as he ponders his entry into the race.
Federal law allows potential candidates to raise money to travel, conduct polls and pay for other expenses related to "testing the waters" for a political campaign. During that exploratory period, a potential candidate does not have to file financial reports with the FEC.
The law prohibits anyone who is "testing the waters" from hoarding the money for use during his actual campaign. Potential candidates also cannot refer to themselves as candidates, can't run ads that publicize their intention to campaign or take steps to qualify for the ballot in a primary or caucus state.
According to a financial report filed late last month, Thompson had raised nearly $3.5 million and had had spent $625,000. Thompson must raise money within federal contribution limits and must report it to the FEC once he becomes an official candidate.
"We're following the law," Thompson spokesman Jim Mills said in response to the complaint.
Under federal guidelines, the FEC will now give Thompson 15 days to respond to the complaint. Following Thompson's response, election commissioners will decide whether to dismiss the case or investigate further.
Thompson, the "Law & Order" television actor and former Republican Tennessee senator, has been hiring staff, opening a headquarters, holding fundraisers and promoting his credentials as a potential White House contender. But he has not said definitively that he's a candidate for president. He is expected to make an announcement around Labor Day.
By not filing officially as a candidate, Thompson also benefits from continuing reruns of "Law & Order" without broadcasters encountering demands for equal time from his rivals.
Hudson, an activist who gained attention for posting Internet communications between disgraced former Rep. Mark Foley and a congressional page, said Thompson "has been ignoring the letter and the spirit of the federal election law for his own political benefit."