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Dems to Sue McCain Over Election Fund Troubles

A while ago, there was a fair amount of information about John McCain’s funding troubles floating around. However, happily for McCain, the press was more interested in McCain’s alleged sexual promiscuity (ssssshhhivvver) with a young and pretty lobbyist. Now, the DNC plans to sue McCain over the issue, which is reported by Politico, but sadly without much information about the actual issue at hand. So, in case you missed it then or have subsequently forgotten about it now, I’ll throw you a primer after the link:

Jonathan Martin’s Blog: DNC to again file suit on McCain’s matching funds – Politico.com

Democrats hope to puncture a hole in McCain’s good government image by pressing the issue while Republicans dismiss it as totally groundless.

Way back when John McCain was the luckless loser of the Republican Primary contests, he was riding coach and struggling to pay for even the most meager of campaign advertising and rallying. In those days, he chose to dip into the matching funds account setup by the Federal Elections Commission that pays an equal share of funds for every dollar you raise, up to a point. But he didn’t use it like you’d think he’d use it. What he did was apply for a loan from a bank and apply for the matching funds program at the same time. He then told the bank that they could use the matching funds money as collateral if he wasn’t able to pay the bank back.

He got both the loan and the matching funds approval. You can’t do that. And once he got the loan, he declared that he no longer needed the matching funds, so he figured he’d just turn them down. You can do that either.

The real trouble for McCain is that offering something up as collateral implicitly means you own it. Either that, or it’s fraud. It wasn’t fraud, inasmuch as he did get approved for matching funds. So the only other option is that he acted as though he’d already accepted the money. Once you accept the matching fund money, you have to play by the matching fund rules, which include a miniscule and wholly inadequate cap on spending which would put McCain well out of the race.

Because the FCC is currently not completely staffed, there’s no one at the bridge to say whether there is or isn’t a violation here, officially. So it appears as though the DNC has chosen to sue McCain in court to get the same ruling. This is going to be interesting.

By Tommy Belknap

Owner, developer, editor of DragonFlyEye.Net, Tom Belknap is also a freelance journalist for The 585 lifestyle magazine. He lives in the Rochester area with his wife and son.

2 replies on “Dems to Sue McCain Over Election Fund Troubles”

As a strong supporter of public financing of campaigns I’ve watched this story closely and I’ve read a somewhat different account of these events. McCain applied for matching funds during the primary and was approved, but never actually received or spent any of the money. He also applied for a loan but he did not offer the public matching funds as collateral as evidenced by a review of the loan documents which make no mention of any such collateral. What he told the bank was that he planned to cancel the public funds he had qualified for, but if his candidacy and private fundraising faltered he would reapply for them and have them available to help repay the loan. As he said he would he has requested that the FEC cancel the public funds, but since the FEC is understaffed and doesn’t have a quorum it can’t officially respond to his request, which is hardly his fault. (P.S. I’m an Obama supporter who’s terrified of a McCain presidency, but fair is fair.)

Craig: that’s not an account I’ve heard, I guess we’ll have to see what actually happened. I’ve also never seen the applications.

I’m no lawyer, but the difference between using the matching funds as collateral and saying he’ll reapply for them to repay the loan strikes me as a matter of inches. Either way, it strikes me as unethical to use the funds for anything but their intended purpose.

Also, it’s not just that the FEC is not available to officially release him from the fund: members that are still working for the FEC have said point blank that they don’t think it’s possible for him to accept the funds then bow out, which is a major sticking point that goes to the ethics of his actions.

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