FEC to give final OK to releasing $12.6 million to Buchanan

WASHINGTON - Pat Buchanan inched closer to getting a $12.6 million check for his Reform Party presidential campaign.

The Federal Election Commission was expected to ratify an earlier preliminary decision to award Buchanan the federal campaign funds at its meeting Thursday.

John Hagelin, who also had sought the money, has 15 days to appeal the ruling, but an official for his campaign said he will not challenge the federal decision.

''It got to be too time consuming,'' said Bob Roth, Hagelin's spokesman. ''The Reform Party is dead as envisioned by Ross Perot as a mainstream party ... and John Hagelin has emerged as the leader of this reform movement, and now with the support of Ross Perot, his strength will only grow in American politics.''

The FEC voted to give the money to Buchanan earlier this week in a 5-1 preliminary ruling. Final action by the commission would authorize the Treasury to issue a check, but Hagelin said he will seek a federal injunction immediately after the FEC's final vote.

The Reform Party is due the money because of the 1996 election showing of party founder Perot, who won 8 percent of the national vote.

Buchanan, who is counting on the money to help revive his campaign, has said he plans to use much of the money for advertising.

On Wednesday, a California judge declared Buchanan the Reform Party's true presidential candidate.

Superior Court Judge James L. Wright ordered Hagelin to stop campaigning as the party's nominee. His supporters must also stop promoting Hagelin as such, collecting and spending donations, and operating its Web site.

Hagelin said he would honor that ruling, both in California and nationwide. In the meantime, his lawyer said he would seek to delay the force of the ruling while appealing it.

Hagelin said he would continue to campaign as the Natural Law Party candidate and also would seek broader support.

''We're moving ahead dynamically with what we hope will be a very high-profile campaign,'' he said. ''The Reform Party that we knew and loved under Ross Perot has been killed.''


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