Hart Failed to Document $1-Million Debt Settlement

Times Staff Writers

Democratic front-runner Gary Hart has failed to submit records to the Federal Election Commission to document claims that he has settled about $1 million in debts from his 1984 presidential campaign, FEC records show.

The undocumented settlements are roughly one-third of the total debt that Hart says he has eliminated in the last year. FEC officials said the lack of documentation is slowing its process of reviewing the 1984 campaign debts to make sure they have been disposed of properly. All settlements that a campaign reaches with creditors, in which a fraction of the amount owed is generally paid off, must be approved by the FEC before a campaign can close its books.

The FEC requires that the documentation be provided when a campaign files the settlements, although there is no penalty for late filing.

Monday Filing Planned

Donald Simon, a Washington attorney who handles Hart's FEC filings, said Friday his office plans to submit the documents to the FEC on Monday. The filing had been delayed while he waited for debt-settlement checks to clear, Simon said.

The documentation delay was confirmed as controversy about Hart's old campaign debts continued to cast a shadow over his current White House bid. Last week, U.S. marshals in Los Angeles confiscated money raised at a Hart fund-raiser in response to a court judgment won by one of his creditors.

Hart has maintained that he has made steady progress in paying off his debts and that all questions about his 1984 finances will be "resolved soon."

Of the roughly $4.3 million that Hart's 1984 campaign owed at the beginning of 1986, the campaign has yet to reach settlements covering $1.3 million.

The campaign has filed settlements covering $1.6 million, but supporting documents were not submitted for about $1 million, FEC records show.

December Settlements Shown

The records show that about half of the undocumented settlements were reached in December.

In another development, it was learned that the Colorado Democrat, who repeatedly has emphasized his refusal to accept money from political action committees, may face questions from the FEC about whether his own PAC subsidized his 1984 campaign by paying campaign consultants and covering some campaign expenses, sources said.

The FEC has been examining the filings of Hart's PAC, the Volunteer Committee, looking at possible irregularities, sources said. The sources said that no evidence of violations has been found but that Hart's filings with the commission have not yet answered all questions.

Federal law prohibits political action committees from giving more than $5,000 to a candidate. The PAC made substantial payments to a number of Hart staff members that would exceed the limit. However, Hart campaign officials asserted that the payments were made for legitimate work done for the PAC, rather than Hart's presidential campaign. Some of the services benefited other candidates backed by the PAC.

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