Friday, February 22, 2008

FEC Warns McCain on Campaign Spending reported The nation's top federal election official told Sen. John McCain yesterday that he cannot immediately withdraw from the presidential public financing system as he had requested, a decision that threatens to dramatically restrict his spending until the general election campaign begins in the fall.
Now I hope McCain understands why we were not happy with McCain Feingold.
... McCain's attempts to build up his campaign coffers before a general election contest appeared to be threatened by the stern warning yesterday from Federal Election Commission Chairman David M. Mason, a Republican. Mason notified McCain that the commission had not granted his Feb. 6 request to withdraw from the presidential public financing system.

The implications of that could be dramatic. Last year, when McCain's campaign was starved for cash, he applied to join the financing system to gain access to millions of dollars in federal matching money. He was also permitted to use his FEC certification to bypass the time-consuming process of gathering signatures to get his name on the ballot in several states, including Ohio.... Mason's letter raises two issues as the basis for his position. One is that the six-member commission lacks a quorum, with four vacancies because of a Senate deadlock over President Bush's nominees for the seats. Mason said the FEC would need to vote on McCain's request to leave the system, which is not possible without a quorum. Until that can happen, the candidate will have to remain within the system, he said.
And the chances that Congress will act to approve nominees now is somewhat less than the chance of a snowstorm in Hades.
The second issue is more complicated. It involves a $1 million loan McCain obtained from a Bethesda bank in January. The bank was worried about his ability to repay the loan if he exited the federal financing program and started to lose in the primary race. McCain promised the bank that, if that happened, he would reapply for matching money and offer those as collateral for the loan.
That does not even sound right.
While McCain's aides have argued that the campaign was careful to make sure that they technically complied with the rules, Mason indicated that the question needs further FEC review. If the FEC refuses McCain's request to leave the system, his campaign could be bound by a potentially debilitating spending limit until he formally accepts his party's nomination. His campaign has already spent $49 million, federal reports show. Knowingly violating the spending limit is a criminal offense that could put McCain at risk of stiff fines and up to five years in prison.
One term in the White Houst, and then one term in prison.
... Trevor Potter, a former FEC chairman who is McCain's top lawyer, immediately disputed the assertions in Mason's letter, saying McCain has a constitutional right to exit the federal program.
The Constitution? Let us see, didn't we mention the Constitution when McCain Feingold was passed?
He also dismissed the letter as unenforceable because the FEC lacks a quorum to resolve the dispute.... "This is serious," agreed Republican election lawyer Jan Baran. Ignoring the matter on the grounds that the FEC lacks a quorum, Baran said, "is like saying you're going to break into houses because the sheriff is out of town."
Michelle blogged Hoisted by his own campaign finance petard. Can’t say I’m reaching for the Kleenex.

James Joyner blogged John McCain appears to be caught in the campaign finance system that he championed. There’s a certain delicious irony in this, especially enjoyable by those of us who opposed McCain’s efforts at “reforming” away the rights of citizens to spend their own money as they see fit on political speech.

It sounds, though, like McCain is merely caught in a technicality owing to vacancies on the FEC and that he would be well within his rights to have his withdrawal granted were there a quorum. The Congress has been deadlocked in partisan games for well over a year in confirming people to a bipartisan commission. One can’t imagine that Senate Democrats will be eager to break that if it means their presidential candidate, already presumed to be the favorite to win, will have a decided financial edge.

John Hawkins blogged Here's a guy who helped put together an anti-First Amendment campaign finance reform law that greatly harmed the Republican Party, and now, that very same law may put him in a position where he will have less money to spend between now and September than his most likely opponent can raise in a single month.

Powered by ScribeFire.

No comments: