Alexa

Democrats file complaint against McCain over campaign money

Democrats file complaint against McCain over campaign money

The Democratic Party filed a complaint against Sen. John McCain on Monday, calling on campaign finance regulators to investigate the Republican presidential candidate's decision to withdraw from the primary election's public financing system.
In a letter to the Federal Election Commission, the Democratic National Committee contends McCain cannot reject the public funds _ and the strict spending limits that come with it _ because he faces questions about the terms of a loan he obtained late last year.
McCain, who had been entitled to $5.8 million (euro3.91 million) in federal matching funds for the primary, notified the commission this month that he did not intend to accept the money. That would free him from spending caps that would have severely restricted his ability to campaign between now and the Republican National Convention in early September.
But FEC Chairman David Mason, in a letter to McCain last week, said the senator must show that he did not use the promise of future public funds to help secure a $4 million (euro2.7 million) line of credit he obtained last year. Mason also said McCain must receive approval from four members of the six-member commission before withdrawing from the system.
Such approval is doubtful in the short term because the commission has four vacancies and cannot convene a quorum.
The DNC's complaint faces a similar obstacle.
Upon receiving a complaint, FEC staffers must notify the target and request a response. They then make a confidential recommendation to the commissioners whether to continue with a full investigation or whether to dismiss the complaint. Without a quorum, the FEC will be unable to make that determination.
The vacancies have not been filled because of a partisan dispute in the Senate. Democrats have refused to confirm Hans von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department official, and Republicans want all FEC nominees voted on as a package.
McCain and his lawyer, former FEC chairman Trevor Potter, have argued that McCain is entitled to turn down the primary matching funds in the same manner that Democratic presidential candidates Richard Gephardt, John Kerry and Howard Dean did in the 2004 primaries. Dean is now chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Staying in the public financing system could be devastating for McCain because he would have to live within primary spending limits that he is already on the verge of surpassing.
McCain, campaigning in Ohio on Monday, said he had not considered the financial implications of such a step.
"I haven't even contemplated it because we're doing exactly what Howard Dean did in a previous election and what the FEC ruled in the case of Congressman Gephardt," he said. "They said they were going to take matching funds and then they withdrew."
In a teleconference with reporters Sunday, DNC general counsel Joe Sandler said McCain's circumstances are different because of the terms of his loan.
Mason's letter, dated Feb. 19, asked McCain to explain how provisions in his loan agreement with Fidelity & Trust Bank of Bethesda, Maryland, did not pledge McCain's future right to receive matching funds as collateral.
The loan was not directly secured by McCain's potential access to public funds. But his agreement with the bank required him to reapply for public funds if he lost early primary contests and to use that money as collateral.
Potter has said McCain can withdraw from the system because he never received the public money and because the loan did not encumber the certification McCain had received from the FEC entitling him to the money. He said the campaign will respond to Mason's queries.


Updated : 2021-03-08 19:59 GMT+08:00