FEC Tut-Tuts Complaint on London Fundraiser

Posted November 26, 2008 at 3:17pm

Political theater or political theatre?

Citing Anglo-American semantic confusion, the Federal Election Commission recently cleared Sen. John McCain of any wrongdoing for a London fundraiser that a prominent British family put on for the Arizona Republican earlier this year.

Judicial Watch, the group that filed the complaint, alleged that McCain’s campaign accepted illegal campaign contributions from foreign nationals when it allowed members of the Rothschild banking family to throw the then-Republican presidential nominee a fundraiser at a London palace in March.

But the FEC concluded that the confusion may have simply been a result of misinterpreted etiquette in the fundraiser invitation.

“Apparently due to the invitation’s reference to the Rothschilds and their ‘permission’ bestowed on the event, the complainant concluded that foreign nationals may have made in-kind contributions to the committee,” the commission wrote in November. The Rothschilds “deny having any decision making or management role with the fundraiser and explain that invitation’s use of the phrase ‘kind permission’ was a ‘standard polite phrase’ used on invitations.”

Political candidates are allowed to raise money on foreign soil as long as the donors are American citizens.

Even so, Judicial Watch had other quarrels with the event. The fundraiser’s venue, according to the FEC complaint, was made available to the campaign at a reduced cost, a potential violation of campaign finance laws.

“Recent news reports suggest that Sen. John McCain and John McCain for President may have accepted an in-kind contribution from Lord Rothschild OM GBE and the honorable Nathaniel Rothschild of Great Britain, in contravention of federal election laws,” the group wrote to the commission last April.

Judicial Watch also questioned whether McCain’s campaign was collaborating with foreign nationals, emphasizing campaign aide Rick Davis’ “connection” with wealthy Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska, whose “visa was revoked by the State Department due to concerns that ‘he may have amassed his wealth illegally.’”

“The direct involvement of Lord Rothschild OM GBE and the Hon. Nathaniel Rothschild in Sen. McCain’s campaign fundraising efforts through the in-kind donation of the choice venue of the Spencer House in London and other possible amenities would raise a substantial question as to whether a violation of the legal prohibitions of foreign nationals participating in the decision-making of a presidential campaign has occurred,” the group wrote.

But in its investigation, the FEC found “no reason to believe” that McCain, his campaign or any member of the Rothschild family had broken the law. Rather, the commission agreed that linguistic confusion played a primary role in the misunderstanding.

McCain’s campaign told the agency that the use of “kind permission” was used unbeknownst to the committee, which assumed “that a different invitation, using the Rothschilds’ names, was sent out by the campaign’s London fundraising consultant.”

Despite the apparent confusion, Judicial Watch was critical of the FEC’s recent findings, calling the decision “a pass.” The conservative group released word of the FEC’s decision on its Web site last week.

“The FEC had better start taking seriously the threat posed by foreign nationals who seek to corrupt our election process. The McCain campaign fundraiser is just the tip of the iceberg,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. “What about all of the foreign Internet contributions allegedly flooding into the Obama campaign? Foreign influence in U.S. elections is a serious problem and it deserves the FEC’s — and law enforcement’s — full attention.”