Reuters reported McCain attack on Obama on campaign finance, did not mention that McCain may be breaking campaign finance laws

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

Reuters reported that Sen. John McCain's campaign "is preparing to take $84 million in public funding after the Republican Party convention in September and he is challenging [Sen. Barack] Obama to stick by last year's pledge to use public money and its accompanying spending limits," but did not note that Federal Election Commission chairman David Mason has taken the position that McCain cannot opt out of public financing in the primary without FEC approval, as McCain has attempted to do, or that McCain could be breaking federal laws by exceeding spending limits within the public financing system for the primary.

In a May 9 Reuters article, staff writer Andy Sullivan reported that Sen. John McCain's campaign "is preparing to take $84 million in public funding after the Republican Party convention in September and he is challenging [Sen. Barack] Obama to stick by last year's pledge to use public money and its accompanying spending limits." Sullivan also quoted McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds' assertion that "[i]t would be unfortunate for the Democratic nominee, particularly if it was Barack Obama, to go back on his commitment to the public financing system." But Sullivan did not note that Federal Election Commission chairman David Mason has taken the position that McCain cannot opt out of public financing in the primary without FEC approval, as McCain has attempted to do, meaning that every day that McCain spends beyond the limits of the public financing system -- which he has already exceeded -- he could be breaking federal law. Nor did Sullivan note that President Bush subsequently withdrew Mason's renomination.

The Associated Press reported on February 21:

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.

The loan could have required McCain to remain in the race, regardless of whether his candidacy was viable, in order to receive matching funds to pay back the loan. A March 23 Washington Post article reported that "McCain has officially broken the limits imposed by the presidential public financing system," and a February 22 article in the Post noted that "[k]nowingly violating the spending limit is a criminal offense that could put McCain at risk of stiff fines and up to five years in prison." Under the Presidential Primary Matching Payment Account Act, violators could face fines up to $25,000 and up to five years of jail time.

Bush had previously submitted Mason's name for reappointment to the FEC twice -- on December 16, 2005, and after Congress adjourned in 2007 without acting on the nomination, on January 9, 2007. But on May 6, he withdrew that renomination, nominating three others to the commission. A May 9 New York Times article reported of Bush's withdrawal of Mason's renomination: "Advocacy groups that work to counter the influence of money in politics immediately assailed the White House action, arguing it could be construed only as a blatantly political act, meant to benefit the McCain campaign." The article also quoted Democracy 21 president Fred Wertheimer, who in a statement asserted, "President Bush's dumping of Mason can only be viewed as a bald-faced and brazen attempt to wrongly manipulate an important enforcement decision by the nation's campaign finance enforcement agency," and reported that "[a]t minimum, said several campaign finance experts, Republican officials obviously understood the implications for Mr. McCain."

As Media Matters for America has noted, a May 6 Reuters article on Bush's May 6 nominations for the FEC also did not note that Bush had withdrawn Mason's renomination.

From the May 9 Reuters article:

Obama and [Sen. Hillary] Clinton need that cash to continue their own battle for the Democratic nomination, while McCain clinched the Republican nomination in March.

But if trends continue, McCain is likely to be outspent significantly by the eventual Democratic nominee.

McCain's campaign is preparing to take $84 million in public funding after the Republican Party convention in September and he is challenging Obama to stick by last year's pledge to use public money and its accompanying spending limits.

"It would be unfortunate for the Democratic nominee, particularly if it was Barack Obama, to go back on his commitment to the public financing system," McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said.

Posted In
Elections, Campaign Finance
Network/Outlet
Reuters
Person
Andy Sullivan
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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