Ross Perot’s Reform Party sued the Democratic and Republican campaign committees Wednesday, saying they evaded election law and competed unfairly during the 1996 presidential race.
The suit, filed in federal court, also claims the Federal Elections Commission has been ineffective and biased against third parties since its formation in 1971.
The suit said the presidential campaigns of both major political parties in 1996 flouted restrictions on the use of “soft money” contributed by corporations and labor unions, confident of inaction by the FEC.
The FEC has been unable “to protect the rights of members and supporters of minor parties and the campaign organizations of minor parties,” the suit said.
The suit also challenged a federal law that provides less federal campaign funding to minor parties than major parties, and a law that requires aggrieved individuals to file a complaint with the FEC - composed of three Democrats and three Republicans - before going to court.
Speaking at a news conference, Perot said the nation was “in denial” about the scope of campaign finance illegalities.
“We are determined to get the nation to understand these problems,” he said.
Since election law limited Perot’s third-party campaign to $30 million, the suit claims his chances for election suffered when the two rivals illegally spent much more.
The plaintiffs seek unspecified monetary damages and various injunctions and judgments against the FEC and the two major political parties.
Last Friday, lacking blockbuster revelations and unified support from his own party, Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., said he would suspend hearings on campaign finance abuse and will end the investigation at year’s end.
Perot said the Reform Party waited to filed the suit until the hearings were over, and then filed it in San Francisco to be as far away as possible from Washington.