Campaign Finance Squabble

Posted July 16, 2004 at 6:32pm

Sen. John “The Finance Reformer” McCain (R-Ariz.), entered the ring with venom and vigor last week during an impromptu Smack Down contest with Federal Election Commission Chairman Bradley “the Bully” Smith. [IMGCAP(1)]

McCain and Smith are longtime foes. McCain adamantly opposed Smith’s nomination to the FEC in 2000 because Smith, a former law professor, opposed campaign-finance regulations. Smith was hand-picked by Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), who was then Senate Majority Leader and who opposed campaign finance reform legislation.

McCain and Smith had never actually met face-to-face, though, until a Rules Committee oversight hearing on the FEC Wednesday.

According to several eyewitness accounts, including one from the Web diary of campaign-finance lawyer Bob Bauer, Smith went over to introduce himself to McCain. Smith was in a wheelchair recovering from a hernia operation, but he got out of the wheelchair to walk over to the dais where McCain was seated.

Smith put out his hand and introduced himself. McCain instinctively offered his hand in return, but then — realizing who he was about to meet — quickly yanked his arm away and started yelling at Smith.

McCain called the commissioner “a bully” and “corrupt” and said he has “no regard for the Constitution.” Smith couldn’t get a word in edgewise, eyewitnesses said. He just went back to his wheelchair.

McCain’s “bully” comment referred to a fight that Smith had in May with former FEC General Counsel Larry Noble during a hearing on regulating the independent soft-money organizations known as 527s. At that hearing, Smith “used his power,” according to one witness, to beat up on Noble. Smith apologized soon after the hearing.

Smith seemed bothered by his fight with McCain. “I think we all lose our temper from time to time,” he told HOH, “but it’s important for us to realize that our political opponents are not evil or corrupt.”

Smith said he thought the argument was particularly “unfortunate” since “Senator McCain and I actually agree on many, many issues.”

McCain was unavailable for comment on Friday because he was traveling with Vice President Cheney. Hmmm. Could he have been … fundraising for the Bush-Cheney campaign?

However, Marshall Wittmann, a spokesman for McCain, said the Senator has no remorse for his harsh words to the FEC chairman.

“The Senator does not believe in phony amicability,” Wittmann told HOH. “And I suspect he shared with Mr. Smith some straight talk that was useful for the commissioner to hear.”

More Dem Convention Meltdown. Really: Is there any wonder why the Democratic National Convention is plagued by logistical problems and sniping between city, state and national party convention planners? Not after hearing Massachusetts Republican Gov. Mitt Romney’s speech at the National Press Club last week, in which he virtually announced his candidacy for presidency.

During the speech, Romney touted his own credentials and criticized Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) for being wishy washy on key issues, saying Kerry is “too conflicted to be president of the United States.”

Romney’s own presidential ambitions have long been rumored in Massachusetts political circles. An op-ed piece by Scot Lehigh in Friday’s Boston Globe criticized Romney for coming to Washington and “holding forth on presidential politics” instead of attending a meeting in Boston with Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge on counter-terrorism planning for the Democratic convention.

The Democrats retaliated by filing an ethics complaint against Romney charging he used a taxpayer-funded junket to Washington to raise money for the GOP. “It’s not for the people of Massachusetts to foot the bill for the Bush campaign or the Romney campaign,” Kerry campaign spokesman Michael Meehan told The Associated Press.

One Democratic convention strategist who expressed outrage at Romney’s “stump” speech in Washington told HOH: “No wonder the Massachusetts state police have been doing everything they can to tie the Democrats up in knots!”

Poopy Mouth of the Week. Cheney certainly has created an “open potty mouth” atmosphere on Capitol Hill!

Last Thursday, when House Republican committee chairmen took a delegation trip to the White House, mainly just to sip lemonade, drink beer and pass the time on the Truman Balcony with President Bush, Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), missed the bus.

The busload of committee chairmen, by the way, had been waiting around for a good 15 minutes in front of the Capitol. And it was clear they were getting tired of waiting. So … the bus left!

When the Ways and Means chairman came running out of the Capitol looking for the bus, he was told by two reporters that it had left.

“Shit!” Thomas yelled.

But never fear. Reporter to the rescue. A quick telephone call over to Thomas’ office to report what had just happened produced a car in no time that shuttled the irascible Californian to safety. He got his face time with the commander in chief. And everyone lived happily ever after.

DCCC Blogger Contest. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is enlisting the entire blogosphere to help raise money for its quest to take back control of the House in November. The top five blogger fundraisers will win a fully paid trip to the Democratic Convention.

In a new “Dear Blogger” letter, the DCCC is asking Web-savvy Democrats to link to the DCCC Web site and help raise money. The top five so-called “NetRoots” fundraisers on the DCCC’s “Majority Makers” project will win a convention package that includes: round-trip transportation to Boston; four nights accommodations in Boston; and convention credentials.

But wait! That’s not all!

The winners will also receive “an invitation to a very special convention event.”

DCCC spokesman Greg Speed says the contest is a “great opportunity for Democratic activists everywhere to become virtual delegates and get their pass to the Fleet Center to witness history in the making.”

Gay Outings in No-Spin Zone. Capitol Hill’s most unpopular new e-mailer, gay outing activist Michael Rogers, is scheduled to appear on the “O’Reilly Factor” tonight on Fox News. Rogers says he’ll be talking about “why gay outing is a very important and viable tactic in our country today.”

Over the past two weeks, Rogers has been “outing” gay staffers who work for Members of Congress who support the federal ban on same-sex marriage. Despite the Senate having essentially killed the marriage amendment legislation last week, Rogers says he isn’t ending his campaign, which some Hill staffers have denounced as “terrorism.”

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