Money Matters: Mulligan on McCain

Posted June 17, 2008 at 4:58pm

The Democratic National Committee will ask a federal judge again next week to force the Federal Election Commission to look into whether Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) opted into the presidential public financing system.

[IMGCAP(1)]According to court papers the DNC said it will file next week, McCain’s campaign broke the law “by ignoring spending limits in the primary” by using a promise of U.S. Treasury money to obtain a bank loan.

“John McCain poses as a reformer but when it comes to his own campaign, he thinks the rules apply to everyone but him,” DNC Chairman Howard Dean said in a statement on Tuesday. “Taxpayer dollars helped him secure a private loan to keep his campaign afloat, he got free ballot access which saved his campaign money and yet it’s clear he doesn’t think he needs to stick by the legally binding contract he signed.”

The DNC lodged similar allegations with the FEC last winter. But with a long-standing political dispute keeping the FEC’s doors closed since Jan. 1, the agency was unable to offer little more than informal advice to McCain on the matter.

Sitting FEC Chairman David Mason, a Republican, hinted to McCain in a memo that his campaign should abide by spending limits. Within months, the White House had dropped Mason’s renomination for another term at the agency.

A Senate vote on Mason’s replacement, Election Assistance Commission panelist Caroline Hunter, and four other nominees could come within days.

The DNC’s lawsuit also is the second legal crack in recent months Dean and company have taken at McCain over public financing. The DNC filed a lawsuit in April but was told by the court it must give the agency 120 days — or until June 24 — to act.

Mortgage Costs. Early FEC disclosure statements for May began streaming in this week, and some within the banking industry, which is being battered by the sagging economy, were early filers.

Now-defunct investment bank Bear Stearns shut down its political action committee earlier this month, transferring the more than $330,000 remaining to JPMorgan Chase, which recently bought out the ailing brokerage.

The firm’s PAC had been dormant for months, last writing checks in March to Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), the National Republican Congressional Committee and House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.)

Wells Fargo’s PAC gave out nearly $100,000 in political contributions last month, including $2,000 to House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), $2,000 to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and $15,000 to the NRCC.

But with its overall membership reeling from the credit crunch, the National Association of Mortgage Brokers appears to be running on fumes, according to its most recent FEC filings. The political action committee, which handed out more than $300,000 in the previous cycle, is well off that pace, giving out about two-thirds of that total so far this cycle.

The struggling PAC had just $27,500 on hand as of June 1. The PAC wrote three checks last month totaling $8,500 to Defend America PAC; Idaho Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, a Republican Senate nominee; and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.).

Dingell Relents. House Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) filed paperwork recently with the FEC to open a political action committee.

The new committee, Wolverine PAC, was registered with the agency on June 12 but has not yet declared its fundraising totals.

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