Senate Majority Project

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Could it be that Senator John McCain is illegally raising soft money to boost a future presidential campaign?

Allison Hayward at recently published an appeal from McCain for contributions to a South Carolina (read early primary state) state legislator. In the letter McCain says:
As you know, I rarely ask you to support candidates for state office in states other than your own. However, I must make an exception for a race coming up in South Carolina. …

Rick [Quinn] needs our help. Running statewide is very expensive, and it is important for him to get a strong early start. I hope you will consider sending him a contribution. The easiest way to do that is by logging on to Rick’s website at…
As a South Carolina state legislative candidate, Quinn happily accepts corporate contributions up to $5,000. But under the federal law that is McCain’s namesake, federal officeholders that help state candidates such as Quinn raise money cannot, and must only ask for funds that they could asked for under the federal law. The FEC recently clarified this saying that such funds could be raised so long as …
“written notices are clearly and conspicuously displayed at state candidate fundraising events at which Federally impermissible funds are raised indicating that the covered person is only soliciting federally permissible funds….Alternatively, if written notices are not provided at the event, the covered official may make the following public oral disclaimer: “I am only asking for up to $2,000 from individuals and I am not asking for corporate, labor or minors’ funds.”
[FEC Advisory Opinion 2003-3]

According to Heyward, this solicitation did not contain such a disclaimer.

Is Senator McCain going to FEC prison? Probably not. But he should get a few minutes in the hypocrisy penalty box. In March of this year, McCain joined a letter where he argued for a rule that would “bar Federal officeholders and candidates from soliciting ANY non-Federal funds.” [McCain et al. letter dated 3/28/2005].

Nobody is asking McCain, or anybody else, to unilaterally disarm. And the new federal laws McCain helped write are anything but clear. But we would hope that the media holds McCain to the same level of scrutiny that it does others that are tangled in the web of confusing rules he created and supported.