Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

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Thursday, February 21, 2008
In case you missed it
During his "I did not have sexual or financial relations with that woman" press conference this morning, John McCain fielded what seemed like a side question about his campaign's apparent push to drop out of the public financing system.

McCain has been ripping Barack Obama for supposedly backing out of a pledge to accept public financing (Obama would be a fool to do so, clearly, and as my friend Tameka put it recently, he should just say "my bad," and move on. The public won't even remember) and now is apparently trying to back out himself. Hm. Well, Houston, we have a wee problem, and it plays into a narrative that's building about Mr. McCain, given the New York Times contretemps, and it's one that's familiar to McCain haters in the GOP: John McCain as tisking campaign finance hypocrite.

From the AP today:
McCain Loan Raises FEC Questions

By JIM KUHNHENN – 6 hours ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government's top campaign finance regulator says John McCain can't drop out of the primary election's public financing system until he answers questions about a loan he obtained to kickstart his once faltering presidential campaign.

Federal Election Commission Chairman David Mason, in a letter to McCain this week, said the all-but-certain Republican nominee needs to assure the commission that he did not use the promise of public money to help secure a $4 million line of credit he obtained in November.

McCain's lawyer, Trevor Potter, said Wednesday evening that McCain has withdrawn from the system and that the FEC can't stop him. Potter said the campaign did not encumber the public funds in any way.

McCain, a longtime advocate of stricter limits on money in politics, was one of the few leading presidential candidates to seek FEC certification for public money during the primaries. The FEC determined that he was entitled to at least $5.8 million. But McCain did not obtain the money, and he notified the FEC earlier this month that he would bypass the system, freeing him from its spending limits.

But just as McCain was beginning to turn his attention to a likely Democratic opponent, Mason, a Republican appointee to the commission, essentially said, "Not so fast." ...

... At issue is the fine print in the loan agreement between McCain and Fidelity Bank & Trust. McCain secured the loan using his list of contributors, his promise to use that list to raise money to pay off the loan and by taking out a life insurance policy.

But the agreement also said that if McCain were to withdraw from the public financing system before the end of 2007 and then were to lose the New Hampshire primary by more than 10 percentage points, he would have had to reapply to the FEC for public matching funds and provide the bank additional collateral for the loan.

In his letter to McCain, Mason said the commission would allow a candidate to withdraw from the public finance system as long as he had not received any public funds and had not pledged the certification of such funds "as security for private financing."

Citing the loan agreement, Mason wrote: "We note that in your letter, you state that neither you nor your (presidential campaign) committee has pledged the certification of matching payment funds as security for private financing. In preparation for commission consideration of your request upon establishment of a quorum, we invite you to expand on the rationale for that conclusion."

McCain has been an outspoken critic of the FEC and he and Mason have had ideological differences over campaign finance law for years. ...

Keith Olbermann reported on the McCain loan on "Countdown" this week, and it's an issue that should be explored, because if John McCain is going to lecture the rest of the political world about earmarks, integrity and campaign finance reform, he ought at minimum to live up to his own standards.

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posted by JReid @ 9:53 AM  
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