NY Times, ABCNews.com reported on McCain's loan, but not that its terms may mean McCain is breaking campaign finance laws

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

Reporting on the $4 million loan Sen. John McCain's campaign obtained in November 2007, neither The New York Times nor ABCNews.com's Political Radar blog noted that the loan is at the center of a dispute between McCain's campaign and the FEC, whose chairman has cited the loan in taking the position that McCain cannot opt out of public financing in the primary without FEC approval.

In a May 21 New York Times article, staff writer Leslie Wayne wrote of Sen. John McCain: "Earlier in his primary race, he was forced to borrow $5 million [sic] from his local bank to keep his campaign afloat. That loan has been paid off." Also, ABCNews.com's Bret Hovell reported in a May 20 post on the Political Radar blog that "McCain's campaign, which needed a $4 million loan in order to keep operating at the end of 2007, has seen a remarkable turnaround in its fundraising prowess." But neither Wayne nor Hovell noted that the loan McCain's campaign received 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. Nor did Wayne or Hovell note that that Federal Election Commission (FEC) chairman David Mason cited the loan in taking 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.

In a February 21 article, the Associated Press reported: "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." 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.

From the May 21 Times article:

Mr. McCain, now the presumed Republican nominee, appears to have helped both his campaign and his party by gearing up his fund-raising machine in April and focusing on bringing in money. The Republican National Committee, which will be mobilizing on Mr. McCain's behalf this fall, raised $15.7 million in April, compared with $4.7 million by the Democratic National Committee, according to federal filings. The R.N.C. reported that it had $40 million in cash on hand compared with the D.N.C.'s $4 million.

By the end of April, Mr. McCain reported having nearly $22 million in cash on hand, with slightly less than $1 million in debts. Earlier in his primary race, he was forced to borrow $5 million from his local bank to keep his campaign afloat. That loan has been paid off.

Over all, Mr. Obama has raised $268 million, and he has spent it liberally in the battle for the Democratic nomination. Much of the money he takes in continues to come from small donors, with the average donation $91 in April. That month, the campaign also attracted 200,000 new donors, 94 percent of whom gave less than $200. Nearly 1.5 million people have donated to Mr. Obama, the campaign said.

From the May 20 post on ABCNews.com's Political Radar blog:

The Arizona Republican, who is scheduled to receive the nomination of his party for president in September, has dedicated considerable time and resources to his fundraising effort in recent weeks.

McCain's campaign, which needed a $4 million loan in order to keep operating at the end of 2007, has seen a remarkable turnaround in its fundraising prowess. At a New York City fundraiser in early May, McCain raised $7 million in one evening.

Under a new fundraising structure created by the campaign and the Republican National Committee, a donor can give up to $70,000 to the "McCain Victory 2008," significantly more than the $2,300 individual donor limit set by campaign finance laws. If a donor gives the maximum amount the money is split into multiple funds that all benefit McCain's campaign: the first $2,300 of that money goes to the McCain campaign itself, the next $28,000 goes to the RNC, and the rest is divided among four swing states the campaign plans to target in the general election. Those targeted states are: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Colorado and New Mexico.

Posted In
Elections, Campaign Finance, Election Law
Network/Outlet
The New York Times, ABCNews.com
Person
Bret Hovell, Leslie Wayne
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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