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A group funded in part by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that plans to run ads criticizing Democratic ties to trial lawyers is the target of a complaint filed with election officials Wednesday. The complaint to the Federal Election Commission is against The November Fund by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a group headed by Melanie Sloan, a former aide to congressional Democrats and former federal prosecutor. It accuses the U.S. Chamber of making an improper corporate donation of $500,000 to the fund and says the group plans to run ads targeting Democratic vice presidential nominee and former trial lawyer John Edwards despite a ban on the use of corporate contributions for such TV and radio ads within two months of the Nov. 2 election. The complaint also accuses Republicans, including President Bush’s campaign, of coordinating with the group. It says three of the fund’s leaders have ties to the GOP or the Bush administration: director Ken Rietz was an adviser to Bush’s 2000 campaign; fund co-chairman Craig Fuller has worked with the administration to block the importing of prescription drugs from Canada; and Bush named co-chairman and former Sen. Bill Brock to a panel on the West Coast port worker lockout, the complaint says. Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt called the complaint frivolous. “It has been filed by a Democratic front group and it is not worth the paper that it is written on,” Schmidt said. The November Fund and U.S. Chamber said their activities were legal. Shelley Hymes, a spokeswoman for The November Fund, said the group hasn’t coordinated with Bush’s campaign or the Republican National Committee, and intends to comply with all laws. U.S. Chamber spokeswoman Linda Rozett confirmed that the business lobby has donated $500,000 to the fund, and called the complaint speculative. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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