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US Attorney's office confirms use of federal funds to campaign on prop B.

March 24, 1999
By: Clayton Bellamy
State Capital Bureau
Links: HB 1891

JEFFERSON CITY - For the second day in a row, the US Justice Department declined to provide requested details about Missouri's two US Attorneys' use of federal funds in a campaign against Proposition B.

Questions the department has declined to address include:

Jan Diltz, spokesperson for Eastern Missouri US Attorney Edward Dowd, confirmed Wednesday that Department funds were used to mail a letter to law enforcement officials. The letter urged the addressees to rally resistance to the State's concealed weapons ballot issue.

The office is also using its federally-funded 800 number, 1-800-214-2690, as a source for those seeking anti-Proposition B campaign materials. The materials are provided by Safe Schools and Workplaces Committee, a group that opposes prop B.

Diltz said she did not know how much money the office has spent.

Myron Marlin, spokesman for the Justice Department, which approved the mailing, maintains that the letter was sent merely to inform law enforcement, not to lobby against prop B.

However, the letter states that it is written "on behalf of all federal law enforcement agencies in the State to urge [law enforcement officials'] assistance in defeating this most dangerous measure." The letter also provides the 800 number as a means to obtain the materials, which include pamphlets and lawn-signs.

Groups that support prop B are livid at the Attorneys' action.

"We have urged our members to contact their US Senators," said Bill Powers, spokesman for the National Rifle Association. "Based on those complaints, we expect a serious inquiry will be undertaken into what appears to be a misappropriation of public funds."

When asked if the Missourians Against Crime plan any legal action against the Attorneys, spokesperson Brett Feinstein said they were looking into it.

Because the Senators were distracted by the crisis in Kosovo, Spokespeople of Kit Bond and John Ashcroft said they could not obtain the Senators' reactions.

State law prohibits any local governmental organization or employee from using public funds to "support or oppose any ballot measure or candidate for public office." The US Attorneys are a federal entity and, thus, do not fall under that law.

Organizations that contribute to campaigns are required to disclose the amount contributed to the Missouri Ethics Commission. Since the Attorney's are a federal organization and the election is a state affair, it is unclear whether the Attorneys must disclose the amount they spent.

"I can see where there could be problems in attempting to enforce state campaigning laws on federal organizations," said Cole County prosecuting attorney Rich Callahan, who has tried campaign law cases.

Diltz said the Attorney's Office would not disclose the amount spent. "It's our normal daily business," she said.

Stephen Hill is the US Attorney in the Western District of Missouri. Ronald Scaggs, President of the Missouri Police Chiefs Association, also signed the letter.