Tuesday, April 15, 2008

DNC Sues McCain For Attempting to Get Out of Public Financing

The suit has been filed today and it is something of a campaign finance geek's dream:
Seeking to severely wound John McCain's presidential efforts, the Democratic National Committee on Monday filed suit in federal court that could force McCain's campaign to give up millions of dollars in fines after applying for, then ultimately declining, federal matching funds and the accompanying spending limits. But because of a more than two year-old feud between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the White House, the organization charged with overseeing campaign finance law - the Federal Election Commission - has become almost totally incapacitated and is powerless to resolve the dispute.

The Democratic complaint centers on McCain's certification for public matching funds, which the FEC would give to candidates who agree on spending limits during the primary that max out near $54 million. After putting together an early winning streak, McCain decided not to accept those matching funds - he would have been eligible for $5.8 million in funds as of December 20, according to the FEC. Democrats, though, contend that McCain used the promise of matching funds to obtain a loan that kept his campaign afloat at a crucial juncture.
So the DNC thinks that John McCain pledged the public matching funds that he was supposed to receive to guarantee the loans. But this information refutes that entirely. Currently McCain owes just under $3 million on his loans, which he has the ability to pay if necessary out of his cash on hand.

So the question is why file this now. The fact of the matter is, no matter what, the Democrats need to get an answer before the general election season begins and without an FEC to make a decision, the courts are a poor device to get something done. Clearly something else is going on, but what?

Update: Forgot to include the link to read the complaint at the DNC site.

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