Friday, January 22, 1999

Panel decides Williams was not at fault

Abortion foes still a focus

The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — The Registry of Election Finance said Thursday former state Sen. Gex Williams did nothing wrong in getting mailing lists from an anti-abortion group even with a mix-up over payment.

        The registry, though, is still pondering whether Northern Kentucky Right To Life Inc. and a related political action committee violated campaign activity rules.

        Mr. Williams obtained a mailing list from the organization during his 1994 senatorial campaign. There was confusion over the cost of the list, leading to an allegation that the corporation made what amounted to a contribution to Mr. Williams' campaign, which is illegal.

        The registry ruled the matter was a simple case of misunderstanding and dismissed a complaint against Mr. Williams and the corporation. Mr. Williams, a Verona Republican, lost a race for the 4th District seat in Congress in November.

        But other activity by Northern Kentucky Right To Life, which is very prominent politically, is more problematic, registry officials said.

        The company conducts a questionnaire each election about candidates' views on selected issues.

        Robert Cetrulo, president of the corporate entity, said the results of the questionnaire are published in a newsletter and then given to the organization's political action committee, which in turn makes endorsements. The endorsements are published alongside the questionnaire results in the newsletter.

        Registry Chairman Scott Cox said the matter raises a question about whether the right-to-life PAC should have reported the cost of the endorsement newsletter as a part of its legal political activity.

        Or, if the cost was incurred by the corporate entity of right-to-life, whether it expressly advocated the election or defeat of a candidate, which would make it an illegal corporate contribution.

        Mr. Cetrulo said during a hearing Thursday there was no expense incurred by the right-to-life PAC, so no reporting rules were broken.

        The registry board deferred action on the case until its next meeting.


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