October 15, 2004
The Honorable James B. Comey, Jr.
Deputy Attorney General
U. S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530
RE: Request for Your Direct Involvement in a Criminal Investigation in The Sinclair Broadcasting Group Case
Dear Mr. Comey,
Over the past month, as you know from our exchange at the Judiciary Committee hearing on September 22nd, I have grown increasingly concerned about whether the Department is appropriately handling the sensitive voting access issues likely to be raised in the final weeks of the current election campaign. As you know, at my request, your Office of Professional Responsibility is already reviewing allegations that the Department's role in election issues has had a partisan bias.
Based on the information I have received from the Criminal Division and the Civil Rights Division, I am not persuaded that either of the Divisions, without your personal involvement, can promptly and effectively initiate or conduct the investigation called for in this letter. I urge you, therefore, to make the determination yourself as to whether the following matter merits immediate investigation, and if so, whether it should be assigned to a career person within a Division, or to a specially-selected U.S. Attorney, as in the Senate Computer Break-in Case, or to an Independent Prosecutor, as in the White House/CIA Leak Case.
I'm enclosing a recent complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission setting forth the facts of The Sinclair Broadcasting Group Case. In brief, the allegation is that Sinclair has violated the Federal Campaign Finance Act and the Commission's regulations by making an unlawful corporate contribution to the Bush-Cheney '04 Campaign and the Republican National Committee by ordering its television stations to pre-empt regular programming before the election in order to broadcast a filmed attack on Senator John Kerry. The complaint alleges that Sinclair has committed or is about to commit a violation of The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, 2 USC §441b(a).
The Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission announced yesterday that he believes the Commission cannot deal with a similar complaint arising from this situation, and it is clear that no action will be taken by the FEC on the civil side before the election on November 2. As you know, however, nothing requires the Department of Justice to wait for or defer to that Commission before making a determination of its own as to whether a criminal investigation is warranted. The public interest, the interests of a fair and lawful election, the interests of Sinclair and its shareholders, and the interests of the stations themselves all demand a prompt assessment of the legal issue by the Department and at least a preliminary determination as to whether the persons involved are vulnerable to criminal charges.
I urge the Department, under the auspices you decide upon, to undertake an immediate review of the facts and to notify the company forthwith that it will or will not be the target of a criminal investigation if the allegations prove true. Since Sinclair is a public corporation and will have to report your conclusion to the SEC, you should be able to make your determination public yourself.
Since time is of the essence, I urge you to give this your personal attention immediately in order to protect the integrity of the coming election.
With appreciation and respect, as always,
Edward M. Kennedy