Several groups Thursday urged the Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Attorney General John Ashcroft's (search) use of a political action committee mailing list during his 2000 Senate race.

The National Voting Rights Institute (search), Public Citizen (search) and other groups contended in a letter that Ashcroft evaded campaign finance laws through his Senate campaign's use of a mailing list developed by his Spirit of America PAC (search) at a cost of $1.7 million.

They also say that while Ashcroft told the Federal Election Commission (search) he personally owned the mailing list at one point, he failed to include it on a required report to the Senate outlining his financial holdings. He may have broken tax laws by failing to report income earned from the list on his Internal Revenue Service (search) income tax filings, they say.

Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo said the agency would review the letter.

The FEC concluded last year that the Senate campaign received about $110,000 in list-related income, resulting in an excessive contribution to it by the PAC, and that the PAC and the campaign failed to disclose the donation.

PACs are allowed to give up to $5,000 per election to a federal candidate. The campaign and PAC together agreed to pay a $37,000 civil fine to resolve the FEC inquiry.

Ashcroft, a Missouri Republican, ran for re-election to his Senate seat in 2000. Democratic challenger Mel Carnahan died in a plane crash, but a majority of voters selected his name. His widow, Jean, was appointed to the seat.