What you've been missing: NBC, CBS nightly news shows fail to report on McCain's campaign loan

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

NBC's Nightly News and the CBS Evening News have yet to cover Sen. John McCain's campaign loan, despite a February 29 post on the MSNBC.com blog First Read that stated: "We've noticed today the [Sen. John] McCain/FEC stories -- that McCain very well might have to abide by spending limits before the GOP convention -- are starting to roll in. But why is this only now starting to get more traction, compared with all the stories about [Sen. Barack] Obama waffling on his pledge to accept public funds in the general?"

As Media Matters for America noted, in a February 29 post on MSNBC.com's First Read political blog, NBC News political director Chuck Todd, deputy political director Mark Murray, and political researcher Domenico Montanaro wrote: "We've noticed today the [Sen. John] McCain/FEC stories -- that McCain very well might have to abide by spending limits before the GOP convention -- are starting to roll in. But why is this only now starting to get more traction, compared with all the stories about [Sen. Barack] Obama waffling on his pledge to accept public funds in the general?" The post continued: "For one thing, the McCain story is much more complicated; certainly the Obama pledge hedge was an easier one to tell. But is this starting to become a problem for McCain? At the very least, it makes it MUCH more difficult to criticize Obama for waffling on public funds." But NBC's Nightly News and the CBS Evening News have yet to cover the loan, although they have both repeatedly reported on Obama's decision not to take public financing for the general election and McCain's earlier attacks on Obama for not committing to public financing.

First Read's summation of the story -- "that McCain very well might have to abide by spending limits before the GOP convention" -- stems from a loan agreement the McCain campaign signed during the primary season that could have forced him to remain in the race -- even if he had no chance of winning -- in order to be eligible for public matching funds to repay the loan. In a February 19 letter, Federal Election Commission (FEC) chairman David Mason took the position that McCain cannot legally opt out of public financing for the primary season without FEC approval and, in the same letter, asked the McCain campaign to expand upon its assertion that it had not "pledged the certification of Matching Payment funds as security for private financing," citing provisions of the loan agreement, the associated security agreement, and a modification to those agreements. In the letter, Mason cited a prior FEC advisory opinion stating that a candidate is allowed to withdraw from the matching funds program so long as "the candidate ... had not pledged the certification of Matching Payment Program funds 'as security for private financing.' " If McCain is not allowed to withdraw from the public financing system and if he is found to have knowingly raised and spent money beyond the public financing limits, his actions "could put McCain at risk of stiff fines and up to five years in prison," according to The Washington Post.

Earlier, on August 28, 2007, the FEC announced: "John McCain today became the first 2008 presidential candidate to be declared eligible by the Federal Election Commission (FEC/Commission) to receive federal matching funds" for the 2008 primary. As part of the packet McCain submitted for eligibility, he wrote in an August 13, 2007, letter that he was "a candidate seeking to become eligible to receive Presidential primary matching funds."

Notwithstanding the question articulated on First Read -- "why is this only now starting to get more traction" -- according to a Media Matters search* of the Nexis and Factiva news databases, NBC has not covered the loan on Nightly News. Nor has the CBS Evening News covered the loan.

By contrast, on the February 22 edition of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson, chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos reported:

[T]hey received a letter from the chairman of the Federal Election Commission saying that he believes that John McCain has to stay in the public financing system. Here's the import of that. If he stays in, he's limited to spending $54 million between now and September. He's already spent $49 million. That would leave him only $5 million for the next five or six months. The Democratic nominee is likely to have 10 times that.

At issue is whether he used -- John McCain used those public funds as collateral when he got a loan earlier this year for his campaign. The McCain campaign disputes that. They say they're going to be able to answer this ruling. They're confident they're going to be able to go on. But this letter from the FEC chairman does put that into question.

On the February 23 edition of ABC's World News Saturday, correspondent Liz Marlantes again reported on Mason's letter (although she did not note the loan): "This week, he [McCain] took another hit on that front after he received a letter from the Federal Election Commission saying he may not be allowed to withdraw from the public financing system, and then said he would do so anyway."

While ignoring the issue of McCain's loan, NBC's Nightly News covered the issue of whether Obama would take public financing and McCain's attacks over general-election public financing on February 15, February 20, June 19, June 21, and June 22, and the CBS Evening News covered Obama and general-election public financing on February 20, June 19, and June 25.

The following is a chronology of events surrounding the loan that Nightly News and the CBS Evening News have yet to report on in the context of the loan:

November 14, 2007

The McCain campaign took out a loan from the Fidelity & Trust Bank in Bethesda, Maryland. Under the original loan agreement, if McCain were to withdraw from the matching funds program before the end of 2007 and if he were then to finish more than 10 percentage points behind the winner of the January 8 New Hampshire primary, McCain would have been required to "remain an active political candidate," to reapply for matching funds, and to "grant to Lender, as additional collateral for the loan, a first priority perfected security interest in and to all of Borrower's right, title and interest in and to the public matching fund program." In other words, the agreement could have required McCain to remain in the race, regardless of whether his candidacy was viable, in order to be eligible for matching funds to pay back the loan.

From the John McCain 2008 Inc. Business Loan Agreement:

Additional Requirement. Borrower and Lender agree that if Borrower withdraws from the public matching fund program by the end of December 2007, but John McCain then does not win the New Hampshire primary or place at least within 10 percentage points of the winner of the New Hampshire Primary, Borrower will cause John McCain to remain an active political candidate and Borrower will, within thirty (30) days of the New Hampshire Primary (i) reapply for public matching funds, (ii) grant to Lender, as additional collateral for the loan, a first priority perfected security interest in and to all of Borrower's right, title and interest in and to the public matching fund program, and (iii) execute and deliver to Lender such documents, instruments and agreements as Lender may require with respect to the foregoing.

[...]

COMPLIANCE WITH THE FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION'S MATCHING FUNDS PROGRAM. Borrower agrees and covenants with Lender that while this Agreement is in effect, Borrower shall not exceed overall or state spending limits set forth in the Federal Matching Funds Program, if applicable.

[...]

STATUS OF CURRENTLY HELD CERTIFICATIONS OF MATCHING FUNDS. Borrower and Lender agree that any certifications of matching fund eligibility currently possessed by Borrower or obtained before January 1, 2008 and the right of John McCain 2008, Inc. and John McCain to receive payment under these certifications are not collateral under the Commercial Security Agreement for this Loan.

[...]

DEFINITIONS.

[...]

Collateral. The word "Collateral" means all property and assets granted as collateral security for a Loan. [...] It is expressly understood and agreed that "collateral" specifically excludes any certifications of matching fund eligibility currently possessed by Borrower or obtained before January 1, 2008.

From the loan's Commercial Security Agreement:

COLLATERAL DESCRIPTION. The word "Collateral" as used in this Agreement means the following described property, whether now owned or hereafter acquired, whether now existing or hereafter arising, and wherever located in which Grantor is giving to Lender a security interest for the payment of the indedbtedness and performance of all other obligations under the Note and this Agreement:

[...]

Grantor and Lendor agree that any certifications of matching fund eligibility, including related rights, currently possessed by Grantor or obtained before January 1, 2008, are not themselves being pledged as security for the indebtedness and are not themselves collateral for the indebtedness or subject to this Security Agreement. Grantor agrees not to sell, transfer, convey, pledge, hypothecate or otherwise transfer to any person or entity any of his present or future right, title and interest in and to the public matching fund program or any certifications of matching fund eligibility, including related rights, issued with respect thereto without the prior written consent of Lender.

December 17, 2007

The loan was modified but still included a provision that could have required McCain under certain conditions to "remain an active political candidate and ... reapply for public matching funds" in order to be able to repay the loan. The loan agreement was modified as follows:

Without limiting anything set forth in this Modification to the contrary, certain provisions of the Loan Agreement are hereby modified as follows:

(a) The paragraph entitled "Additional Requirement" set forth in the Affirmative Covenants section of the Loan Agreement is hereby deleted in its entirety and the following substituted in lieu thereof:

"Additional Requirement. Borrower and Lender agree that if Borrower withdraws from the public matching funds program but John McCain then does not win the next primary or caucus in which he is active (which can be any primary or caucus held the same day) or does not place at least within 10 percentage points of the winner of that primary or caucus, Borrower will cause John McCain to remain an active political candidate and Borrower will, within thirty (30) days of said primary or caucus (i) reapply for public matching funds, (ii) grant to Lender, as additional collateral for the Loan, a first priority perfected security interest in and to all of Borrower's right, title and interest in and to the public matching funds program, and (iii) execute and deliver to Lender such documents, instruments and agreements as Lender may require with respect to the foregoing. Borrower and Lender agree that Borrower will provide oral or written notice to Lender at least 24 hours before notice of withdrawal from the public matching funds program is provided by Borrower or John McCain to the Federal Election Commission."

(b) The paragraph entitled "COMPLIANCE WITH THE FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION'S MATCHING FUNDS PROGRAM" set forth in the Loan Agreement is hereby deleted in its entirety and the following substituted in lieu thereof:

"COMPLIANCE WITH THE FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION'S MATCHING FUNDS PROGRAM. Borrower agrees and covenants with Lender that while this Agreement is in effect, Borrower shall not, without Lender's prior written consent, exceed overall or state spending limits imposed under the Federal Matching Funds Program, irrespective of whether Borrower is subject to such program as of any applicable date of determination."

(c) The paragraph entitled "STATUS OF CURRENTLY HELD CERTIFICATIONS OF MATCHING FUNDS" set forth in the Loan Agreement is hereby deleted in its entirety and the following substituted in lieu thereof:

"STATUS OF CURRENTLY HELD CERTIFICATIONS OF MATCHING FUNDS. Borrower and Lender agree that any certifications of matching funds eligibility now held by Borrower, and the right of the Borrower and/or John McCain to receive payment under such certifications, are not (and shall not be) collateral for the Loan." [emphases in original]

(d) The definition of "Collateral" set forth in the "Definitions" section of the Loan Agreement is hereby deleted in its entirety and the following substituted in lieu thereof:

Collateral. The word "Collateral" means all property and assets granted as collateral security for the Loan. [...] It is expressly understood and agreed that, "Collateral" specifically excludes any certification of matching funds eligibility now held by Borrower and/or John McCain, and any right, title and interest of Borrower and/or John McCain to receive payments thereunder."

[...]

(f) The paragraph entitled "Collateral Description" set forth in the Security Agreement is hereby deleted in its entirety and the following substituted in lieu thereof:

"COLLATERAL DESCRIPTION. The word "Collateral" as used in this Agreement means the following described property, whether now owned or hereafter acquired, whether now existing or hereafter arising, and wherever located, in which Grantor is giving to Lender a security interest for the payment of the Indebtedness and performance of all other obligations under the Note and this Agreement:

[...]

Grantor and Lender agree that any certifications of matching funds eligibility, including related rights, now held by Grantor are not themselves being pledged as security for the Indebtedness and are not themselves collateral for the Indebtedness or subject to this Security Agreement. Grantor agrees not to sell, transfer, convey, pledge, hypothecate or otherwise transfer to any person or entity any of its present or future right, title and interest in and to the public matching funds program or any certifications of matching funds eligibility, including related rights, issued with respect thereto without the prior written consent of Lender."

December 20, 2007

The FEC announced it had certified $5,812,197.35 of primary matching funds to McCain but noted that "[b]ased on historical patterns, the FEC estimates that funds may not be available to disburse before March 2008."

February 6, 2008

McCain wrote a letter to the FEC that said, "This letter is to advise you that I, on behalf of myself and John McCain 2008, Inc., my principal campaign committee, am withdrawing from participation in the federal primary-election funding program established by the Presidential Primary Matching Payment Account Act. No funds have been paid to date by the Department of the Treasury, and the certification of funds has not been pledged as security for private financing."

On the June 19 edition of NBC's Nightly News, chief foreign correspondent Andrea Mitchell said, "Obama's campaign ... charge[s] McCain himself waffled on this, applying for public funds during the primaries, then withdrawing from the public system during the nomination fight," but Mitchell did not note the loan.

February 16, 2008

The Washington Post reported that "John McCain's cash-strapped campaign borrowed $1 million from a Bethesda bank two weeks before the New Hampshire primary by pledging to enter the public financing system if his bid for the presidency faltered, newly disclosed records show."

The Post reported the McCain campaign's response:

McCain's attorneys and the Fidelity & Trust president said the loan agreements were carefully scrutinized in advance to make sure they would pass muster with federal banking regulators and the FEC.

"We stayed in a safe zone, and so did he," said Barry C. Watkins, the bank's president. "We were being careful not to force either one of us into a situation we didn't intend."

McCain's campaign filed the modification to his initial $3 million loan on Dec. 17, seeking an additional $1 million. The bank asked him to produce something more than his campaign's assets as collateral.

"They said, 'You've explained how you can afford to borrow more, and how you can pay us back if things go well. What happens if things go badly?' " said Trevor Potter, a McCain attorney.

The campaign's response, Potter said, was that McCain could reapply in the future for federal matching funds, and would agree to use the FEC certifications for those funds as collateral.

Under the agreement, McCain promised that if his campaign began to falter, he would commit to keeping his campaign alive and to entering the federal financing system so the money he had raised could be used to gain an infusion of matching funds. Had that happened, he would have been forced to abide by strict federal spending caps before the Republican National Convention in September.

Under FEC rules, a candidate who uses a certification for federal funds as collateral for a loan is obligated to remain within the public financing system. "We very carefully did not do that," Potter said.

February 19, 2008

Mason replied to McCain's February 6 letter, writing that the FEC previously "stated it would withdraw a candidate's certification upon written request, thus agreeing to rescind the contract, so long as a candidate ... had not pledged the certification of Matching Payment Program funds 'as security for private financing.' " Mason wrote that the McCain campaign said it had not "pledged the certification of Matching Payment funds as security for private financing" and added that "we invite you to expand on the rationale for that conclusion, including but not limited to addressing" specific provisions of the original loan agreement and security agreement, as well as the modified loan agreement (which also amended the security agreement).

Mason also asserted that it required a quorum of FEC commissioners to opt out: "Just as 2 U.S.C. § 437c(c) required an affirmative vote of four Commissioners to make these certifications, it requires an affirmative vote of four Commissioners to withdraw them. Therefore, the Commission will consider your request at such time as it has a quorum."

A February 21 Associated Press article about Mason's letter reported, "Complicating the dispute is the FEC's current lack of a quorum. The six-member commission has four vacancies and Senate Democrats and Republicans are at loggerheads over how to fill them. ... Without action by the Senate, McCain could be waiting indefinitely." A June 19 Associated Press article noted that the FEC still did not have "a quorum to act because four of its six seats have been vacant pending Senate confirmation of presidential nominees."

The Senate confirmed five commissioners to the FEC on June 24, including a successor to Mason, whose renomination President Bush withdrew on May 6.

February 22, 2008

A February 22 Washington Post article reporting on Mason's letter stated 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." The Presidential Primary Matching Payment Account Act provides in 26 U.S.C. § 9035 that "[n]o candidate [participating in the public finance system] shall knowingly incur qualified campaign expenses in excess of the expenditure limitation applicable under section 320(b)(1)(A) of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971." And 26 U.S.C. § 9042 states: "Any person who violates the provisions of section 9035 shall be fined not more than $25,000, or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both. Any officer or member of any political committee who knowingly consents to any expenditure in violation of the provisions of section 9035 shall be fined not more than $25,000, or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both."

An update to a February 22 blog post on Election Law Blog included a McCain statement that read in part:

"Senator McCain notified the FEC and the United States Treasury of his withdrawal from the system in a letter dated February 6th. The current dispute is simply over whether the FEC has to take any action in response to the withdrawal notice. It is clear to the campaign, as it is to a number of FEC experts, that no FEC action is necessary in response to Senator McCain's notice of withdrawal given the constitutional nature of the right. In our view, the Senator's letter is all that is legally required to exit from the system. FEC Chairman Mason, who does not represent the official view of the Commission due to the current lack of a quorum, has written a letter to the campaign in which he states his belief that the FEC must formally vote to accept the withdrawal. In either case the result is the same: the campaign will be out of the public funding system either because of the letter sent on February 6th, or because of a future vote by the Commission acknowledging the letter.

"Nevertheless, the campaign is fully responding to Chairman Mason's request for information and is confident that the new commissioners, when appointed and confirmed, will take whatever action they conclude is necessary to confirm Senator McCain's withdrawal from the system as of February 6, 2008."

February 25, 2008

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) filed a complaint with the FEC asserting that McCain "pledged matching funds as collateral for a loan to his campaign" and that "apart from the ability to obtain the loan, the McCain Campaign has obtained a material, financial benefit from the certification of eligibility for matching funds through the ability to avail itself of the automatic right of access to the ballot, in some states."

On the February 24 edition of the CBS Evening News with Russ Mitchell, anchor Russ Mitchell reported, "One more political note now. The Democratic Party says it will file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission tomorrow against John McCain. The complaint will challenge McCain's attempt to withdraw from the public campaign financing system." But Mitchell did not mention the loan or otherwise explain the details of the complaint.

March 23, 2008

The Washington Post reported that "McCain has officially broken the limits imposed by the presidential public financing system, according to reports filed last week by the campaign. McCain has spent $58.4 million on his primary effort. Those who have committed to public financing can spend no more than $54 million on their primary bid."

April 14, 2008

The DNC filed a lawsuit asking a federal court act on its complaint that McCain has violated campaign finance laws.

May 6, 2008

President Bush withdrew Mason's nomination for reappointment to the FEC.

May 14, 2008

Citing a "120-day exclusivity period," federal District Judge John D. Bates ordered the DNC's complaint "dismissed without prejudice," meaning that while he found that the DNC could not go forward with its lawsuit, he was not barring the DNC from refiling the complaint. Bates wrote:

The FEC retains exclusive jurisdiction over initial complaints pursuant to FECA. See In re Carter-Mondale, 642 F.2d at 542 ("[T]he exclusive jurisdiction of the FEC extends to assure that the Commission's initial investigation is completed, or the statutory time limit allowed for an investigation has expired, before any judicial review is invoked."). The relevant provisions governing judicial review are found in 2 U.S.C. §§ 437g(a)(8)(A) - (C). Section 437g(a)(8)(A) provides:

Any party aggrieved by an order of the Commission dismissing a complaint filed by such party . . . or by a failure of the Commission to act on such complaint during the 120-day period beginning on the date the complaint is filed, may file a petition with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

June 17, 2008

The DNC announced that it would refile its lawsuit asking a federal court act on its complaint against the McCain campaign.

June 24, 2008

As promised, the DNC refiled its lawsuit on June 24.

From the February 15 edition of NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams:

ANDREA MITCHELL: And John McCain pressed Barack Obama over strategy for a fall campaign. How much money would each man be able to spend if they end up as opponents? Would they raise cash privately or rely on government funds?

[begin video clip]

MITCHELL: A year ago, Obama and McCain each pledged to accept federal financing, $85 million for the general election, instead of raising private funds, where there are no limits. But that was long before Obama started raising eye-popping sums.

McCAIN: If Senator Obama goes back on his commitment to the American people, then obviously we'd have to re-think our position.

OBAMA: It would be presumptuous of me to start saying now that I'm locking myself into something when I don't even know if the other side is going to agree to it.

MITCHELL: Not just a tangle over money, but McCain is looking to question Obama's credibility.

From the February 20 edition of Nightly News with Brian Williams:

KELLY O'DONNELL (Capitol Hill correspondent): Before John McCain visited voters at an Ohio dairy farm today, he found a way to challenge Barack Obama's credibility with a very familiar word.

OBAMA: Something has to change.

O'DONNELL: McCain played off that idea to accuse Obama of backing away from his pledge to cap campaign spending by using only a set amount of taxpayer financing if he's the nominee.

McCAIN: I think the American people would expect him to hold to that commitment, especially if we want to bring about change.

O'DONNELL: McCain was riled by a piece Obama wrote for USA Today where Obama did not say he would take the taxpayer financing, but suggested starting negotiations to figure out a limit on private fundraising.

McCAIN: And that's Washington doublespeak. I committed to public financing. He committed to public financing.

O'DONNELL: McCain turned to foreign policy and made a stinging judgment, saying Obama doesn't grasp the fundamentals after Obama talked publicly about his willingness as president to strike terror targets inside Pakistan without telling that government.

From the June 19 edition of Nightly News with Brian Williams:

ANN CURRY (guest anchor): Now to presidential politics. Barack Obama today became the first candidate to opt out of accepting public financing for his general election campaign. Public financing was put in place more than three decades ago after the Watergate scandal, and Obama's decision created a firestorm today. NBC's Andrea Mitchell now reports.

[begin video clip]

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: McCain says you're breaking your pledge on public financing.

MITCHELL: Barack Obama wasn't answering questions today.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why did you change your mind?

MITCHELL: Instead, he announced his decision online.

OBAMA: The public financing of presidential elections as it is exists today is broken, and we face opponents who've become masters at gaming this broken system.

MITCHELL: Now, instead of getting $85 million from the government to campaign next fall, he can raise hundreds of millions online, overwhelming John McCain, who said today he will stick to the limits for the general election. McCain in Iowa today.

McCAIN: He has completely reversed himself and gone back not on his word to me, but the commitment that he made to the American people. That's disturbing.

MITCHELL: In fact, Obama did promise to observe the limits if his opponent did, checking yes on this questionnaire last November. In February, Tim Russert pressed him on whether he'd keep that pledge.

TIM RUSSERT (debate moderator): So you may opt out of public financing. You may break your word?

OBAMA: What I've said is at the point where I'm the nominee, at the point where it's appropriate, I will sit down with John McCain and make sure that we have a system that works for everybody.

MITCHELL: Obama is already swamping McCain $225 million to $77 million. Only today, Obama launched a new ad in 18 states, including Republican strongholds.

OBAMA: I approved this message because I'll never forget those values.

MITCHELL: Obama's campaign says that's to counter McCain, who wrapped up his nomination months ago. And they charge McCain himself waffled on this, applying for public funds during the primaries, then withdrawing from the public system during the nomination fight. All this will likely end a campaign finance system McCain once fought to save, as the Internet enables any candidate, not just the rich, to spend unlimited dollars if they can inspire a large following online.

Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington.

From the June 21 edition of NBC's Nightly News with Lester Holt:

LEE COWAN (NBC News correspondent): McCain's camp fired back that Obama -- who had his own photo op in the flood zone recently -- also voted against legislation the McCain camp claims might have saved the levees, too. It was the latest back-and-forth in a race Obama predicts is going to get even nastier. At a Friday fundraiser, Obama told donors the Republicans will use his race, even his wife, to stoke fear.

OBAMA: They're going to try to make you afraid of me. "Because he's young and inexperienced and he's got a funny name. Did I mention he's black? He's got a feisty wife."

COWAN: Being able to fight those kind of attacks is the rationale he used to opt out of public financing, counting on his private fundraising prowess to make up the difference.

So far, Obama has been able to beat John McCain to the financial punch by a more than two-to-one margin. But in financial reports filed late Friday, for the first time, John McCain has been able to match Barack Obama almost dollar for dollar. McCain raised $21.5 million in May. That's just shy of the $21.9 million Barack Obama hauled in. But that parity may not last all that long. Most predict Obama will get a huge fundraising bump when the numbers come in from this month, reflecting donors' attitudes after Hillary Clinton conceded.

From the June 22 edition of NBC's Nightly News with Lester Holt:

KEVIN CORKE (NBC News correspondent): First, Obama hopes to blanket the airwaves with TV ads, reintroducing himself to the American people, part of a 50-state strategy the Democrats hope will force Republicans to fork out big dollars in places they hadn't planned to.

JOHN HARWOOD (CNBC chief Washington correspondent): He forces John McCain to defend that turf and spend money that John McCain doesn't have as much of that Barack Obama does.

CORKE: Free of spending limits, the Obama campaign thinks it can raise in excess of $300 million this fall. By comparison, by accepting public financing, the McCain campaign is limited to a budget of just $84 million. Another Obama strategy, equate a McCain presidency with a third Bush term.

OBAMA: This year's Republican primary was a contest to see which candidate could out-Bush the other, and that's the contest that John McCain won.

CORKE: Bush and McCain share similar positions on the war, immigration, and offshore oil exploration, something the Obama camp hopes to exploit.

From the February 20 edition of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric:

NANCY CORDES (transportation and consumer safety correspondent): And so McCain today gave a preview of his campaign playbook in an Obama matchup.

McCAIN: You don't broadcast and say that you're going to bomb a country without their permission or without consulting them.

CORDES: First, point out Obama's relative inexperience, especially in foreign policy. Second, highlight Obama's record as the most liberal voter in the Senate. Third, portray the first-term senator as just another politician, not a sensation.

Today, McCain accused Obama of backing away from a written pledge to take public financing in the general election.

McCAIN: I'll keep my word. I want him to keep his.

CORDES: On Monday, Michelle Obama said she was feeling pride in her country for the first time in her adult life. Cindy McCain responded sharply.

From the February 24 edition of the CBS Evening News with Russ Mitchell:

RUSS MITCHELL (anchor): One more political note now. The Democratic Party says it will file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission tomorrow against John McCain. The complaint will challenge McCain's attempt to withdraw from the public campaign financing system.

There is more disturbing news this Sunday for homeowners.

From the June 19 edition of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric:

RUSS MITCHELL (guest anchor): Now, let's take a look at the presidential race. Barack Obama abandoned a campaign pledge today when he announced he will forgo federal funding, worth some $84 million. He figures he can raise a lot more on his own. In doing that, he'll become the first major candidate to turn down public money since the program was set up in the mid-'70s. Here's Dean Reynolds.

[begin video clip]

REYNOLDS: Given Obama's fundraising prowess, forgoing federal money was not a big surprise, nor was the attempt to make it seem in line with the change he advocates.

OBAMA: I'm asking you to try to do something that's never been done before: declare our independence from a broken system and run the type of campaign that reflects the grassroot values that have already changed our politics and brought us this far.

REYNOLDS: But it is a big reversal. Only months ago, Obama was signaling a willingness to preserve public financing. No wonder John McCain smelled a flip-flop.

McCAIN: This is a big deal. It's a big deal. He has completely reversed himself and gone back not on his word to me, but the commitment that he made to the American people. That's disturbing.

REYNOLDS: And yet Obama's camp believes the $84 million that public financing offers can be easily surpassed by its computerized network of 1.5 million donors. From January 2007 to April of this year, Obama raised $266 million to McCain's $93 million. For Obama, raising at least 100 million more is probably doable.

KENNETH VOGEL (Politico reporter): In which he'll be able to spend money and compete in all 50 states, even those that have not traditionally favored Democrats.

REYNOLDS: Obama indicated he's opting out of the system to have enough money to fight the unlimited spending and what he called the smears from unregulated Republican-allied organizations, such as the Swift Boat group which attacked John Kerry in 2004.

OBAMA: And we face opponents who've become masters at gaming this broken system.

REYNOLDS: But McCain, on a campaign swing through flood-ravaged Iowa, said Obama's new position should make people think twice.

McCAIN: This election is about a lot of things, but it's also about trust, and it's also whether you can take people's word.

[end video clip]

REYNOLDS: Senator McCain said late today that he will accept public financing and live within its limits, though in a year that has become very difficult for Republican fundraising, it's doubtful that he himself could have drummed up much more money than what the public system is offering him. Russ.

MITCHELL: Dean Reynolds in Chicago, thanks.

From the June 25 edition of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric:

KATIE COURIC (CBS anchor): Well, both candidates were pretty vocal about the Supreme Court decision, both decrying the fact that child rapists could not get the death penalty. But with Barack Obama, you think there's a pattern emerging here.

JEFF GREENFIELD (CBS senior political correspondent): I do. And it's, I think, a relentless march to the center. He's determined not to be defined as [1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael] Dukakis was and as John Kerry was, as outside the mainstream. His compromise on how you can wiretap foreign nationals with the FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] compromise, I think, was one example. He's saying maybe his anti-free trade rhetoric was a little overblown. And by abandoning public financing, which he pledged to, he's saying, if I got more money than the other guy, I'm going to use it. I want to win.

COURIC: All right. Jeff Greenfield. Jeff, thanks so much. And we'll be right back.

From the February 22 edition of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:

CHARLES GIBSON (anchor): But what actually may be more of a problem for McCain is the fact that his -- that his campaign has money troubles.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It does. And they received a letter from the chairman of the Federal Election Commission saying that he believes that John McCain has to stay in the public financing system. Here's the import of that. If he stays in, he's limited to spending $54 million between now and September. He's already spent $49 million. That would leave him only $5 million for the next five or six months. The Democratic nominee is likely to have 10 times that.

At issue is whether he used -- John McCain used those public funds as collateral when he got a loan earlier this year for his campaign. The McCain campaign disputes that. They say they're going to be able to answer this ruling. They're confident they're going to be able to go on. But this letter from the FEC chairman does put that into question.

GIBSON: All right. George Stephanopoulos reporting.

From the February 23 edition of ABC's World News Saturday:

MARLANTES: One of McCain's greatest assets is his reputation as a crusader for ethics reform. If new details continue to emerge about his dealings with lobbyists, that reputation could be jeopardized.

[begin video clip]

MARLANTES: This week, he took another hit on that front after he received a letter from the Federal Election Commission saying he may not be allowed to withdraw from the public financing system, and then said he would do so anyway.

CLYDE WILCOX (Georgetown University government professor): He's a campaign finance reformer, but he finds himself in the position possibly competing against a man who's raising money at a record pace.

MARLANTES: The move may be necessary for McCain's political viability. But it could cost him the moral high ground.

* Search terms = SHOW(World News) or SHOW(Evening News) or SHOW(Nightly News) and McCain and (Federal Election or loan or Mason or FEC or fidelity or lend! or lent or borrow or matching or public fund! or public financ! or public money) and date geq (11/1/2007). For transcripts not in Nexis (the February 24 CBS Evening News), the following search was used in Factiva: (free text = "McCain and (Federal Election or loan or FEC or fidelity or lend! or lent or borrow or matching or public fund! or public financ! or public money)"; date range = 11/1/2007 - 11/1/2008; source = "NBC News: Nightly News Or CBS News: Evening News Or CBS News: Evening News - Sunday Or CBS News: Evening News - Saturday")

Posted In
Elections, Campaign Finance, Election Law
Network/Outlet
CBS, NBC
Show/Publication
CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, John McCain, 2008 Elections
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