McCain LOVES Public Financing (as long as it’s for later and not right now)

As previously reported, challenging Obama to stay true to his pledge of accepting public financing in the general election would be a win-win for Senator John McCain’s campaign. However, right now, he’s not too happy about accepting public financing for the primaries.

Last year, when McCain was broke and everyone thought his campaign was finished, he filed to accept public financing. Accepting public financing in primaries means that the Federal Election Commission will match the money candidates raise, but candidates are limited in spending. If candidates accept public funding for primaries, they are limited to spending $54 million, which McCain is already coming close to doing.

Now, you might be asking, “why does McCain need to spend any more money in the primaries, hasn’t he already all but won the Republican nomination?” He has, but “the primaries” doesn’t end until the Republican National Convention in September. If McCain is tied into the public financing system for the primaries, it means he can’t really campaign anymore until September, which would really help whoever the Democratic nominee ends up being. Campaign spending doesn’t simply include advertisements, but travel and staff costs as well. Public financing could cripple McCain until September.

Right now the Federal Election Commission is trying to determine whether or not McCain is going to be held to public financing during the primaries. McCain applied for public financing, and was even granted money, but he says he decided to withdraw before accepting the money. Now the FEC isn’t sure if McCain can withdraw from the system.

Further complicating the problem, the FEC doesn’t even have the minimum number of people currently on the commission to allow McCain to withdraw. The six-member commission has four vacancies, which Senate Democrats and Republicans can’t figure out how to fill. McCain needs the votes of four commissioners to withdraw from the system, but there aren’t even four commissioners available! Without the Senate filling these vacancies, McCain could theoretically be waiting indefinitely.

McCain’s lawyer, who was a former FEC chairman, doesn’t think that McCain needs the FEC’s permission to withdraw. However, Democratics disagree. The Democratic National Committee has filed a complaint with the FEC, saying that McCain is still legally bound to public financing because he used it to his advantage for getting other loans and getting his name on state ballots, even if he didn’t spend the money.

However it turns out, this is a mess for McCain. If he can’t get out of the public financing system for the primaries, he’ll be severely crippled against the Democrats until the Republican National Convention this September. Even if he can get out of it, trying to run away from public financing as hard as he can probably doesn’t help him look too sincere in his allegations against Obama not accepting public financing in the general election. We’ll keep you updated as the situation develops.

FEC chair: McCain can’t drop out of public financing system – [CNN]
DNC to File FEC Complaint Against McCain – [Wall Street Journal]

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