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Speedy action on '527s' rejected

WASHINGTON -- A judge yesterday denied a request to force the Federal Election Commission to act on complaints by President Bush's campaign against anti-Bush groups spending millions of dollars on ads and get-out-the-vote activities in the presidential race.

District Judge James Robertson told Bush's attorneys that he agreed the FEC had moved at a "glacial" pace in handling complaints, but he added, "That's the way Congress has set it up and apparently that's the way Congress likes it."

The Bush campaign had wanted the judge to force the FEC to act on complaints dating back to March within 30 days. After that, the campaign would have been able to sue to block the private groups' activities if it didn't agree with the commission's action.

The judge said he was ruling from the bench rather than waiting to write a decision because, with Election Day nearing, he wanted the campaign to be able to appeal immediately.

"It's not over. We are going to pursue this," Bush campaign lawyer Tom Josefiak said. "The president is committed to do something to regulate the 527s." He was referring to a tax code provision covering the groups. The campaign contends that anti-Bush groups are illegally spending millions of dollars in unlimited donations in the presidential race.

FEC attorney Colleen Sealander argued that the campaign had no right to force the FEC to rule on the complaints and that the commission was taking a reasonable amount of time.

The Bush campaign's case is one of two filed against the FEC over its failure to stop groups from spending millions of dollars in unlimited political donations in the presidential race. Two House sponsors of the campaign finance law filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday seeking to force the FEC to crack down on such groups.

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