20 June 2008

John McCain Is Breaking the Law Right Now

Right this very minute. Every commercial that airs, every T-shirt and mailer printed, every minute every paid staffer works, every copy they make at every campaign office. He can do this openly and with impunity because the Federal Election Commission has been rendered inoperable by the current Republican administration.

This is the most glaring and salient fact about the state of public financing of the presidential election right now, and should be a prominent part of every article written about Barack Obama's decision to opt out of public financing.

But it's somehow nowhere to be found in discussions in the old media. Why? Because it's too complicated for Joe Sixpack to follow? Nonsense. Let me explain it with a simple dialogue.

Hey, let's make a deal you and me. Let's commit to only spending $100 a month on gas from now until the end of the year.

You're already spending nearly twice that? Well so am I. But let's do it anyway. It'll save us some money, save some gas, be good for the country and all of that.

Good... You agree in principle. We'll sit down next week and hash out all the details? Agreed.

Oh yeah, I did forget to tell you that I made a similar agreement with Jeff for $75 a month several months back, but since March I've been spending about 175. Sure he called me on it, but what's he gonna do?

What do you mean "no deal"? You gave your word! You're backing out on your commitment to me and to the American People!

I don't think it's so tough to understand not wanting to make a deal with someone who is already flagrantly violating the rules.

We should also review the facts, which also aren't too tough to follow.

In late 2007, John McCain's campaign was effectively broke, as he was not the favorite of the wealthy wingnuts who underwrite the Republican machine. So in December of 2007, shortly before the New Hampshire primary, McCain took out two loans, totaling about $4 million. Since the bank apparently didn't think the "Straight Talk Express" bus would cover that much as collateral, McCain had to pledge the money from the public financing system as repayment if he couldn't pay it back. The law is written so that taking out a loan against the public money is considered as using the money (in order to avoid a huge loophole), so that by doing so McCain obliged himself to follow the rules, including the most important of the rules, the spending limits. And even though the primaries are over, the spending limit is for the primary *phase* of the campaign, which goes through the party's national convention.

The spending limit for the primary phase of the presidential campaign is $54 million. Now once Republican voters, almost as disgusted with the GOP brand as the rest of the nation, voted heavily for the candidate the corporate media assured them was a "maverick" unlike those other Republicans as the best of a bad lot, McCain became the presumptive nominee. At that point the money started flowing in, and he started spending it, and not just on beating Mike Huckabee in the primaries either. McCain blew past the $54 million cap sometime in March. Seeing that coming, McCain tried to claim that he was withdrawing from public financing in late February, only to be told by FEC chairman David Mason, No you can't, because first we don't have a quorum to release you, and second, how do you explain this here loan agreement?

McCain kept on spending.

The DNC complained. The FEC did nothing. Then the DNC sued the FEC for its failure to act in April. And while the FEC's disciplinary actions have traditionally been of the "lashes with a wet noodle" variety, right now it can't even manage that level of discipline, due to the fact that it has been eviscerated by the current Republican administration. Not only has President Bush continued to insist on vote-suppression criminal Hans von Spakofsky, Bush went even further and gave the chairman David Mason (a fellow Republican) the boot for having the effrontery on calling McCain on his campaign funds shell-game.

Now, just how many people would find this an environment in which you would agree to a deal on campaign financing?

Personally I wouldn't have even considered the offer of negotiations valid under the circumstances. Remember, despite what the RWCM says, Obama never committed to public financing. He committed to trying for an agreement with the Republican nominee. Despite McCain's hypocrisy and the fact that he is actively cheating the system, Obama did send his people to talk to McCain's people about it. Of course, the McCain camp never had any intention of reaching a reasonable agreement. They insisted in keeping the 527s around, even while Obama had unilaterally put the kaibosh on several potential Democratic 527s.

But of course, the press maintains that it's all Obama's fault. The "liberal" New York Times has no less than three big pieces on this today. The front page headline (incorrectly) states Obama, in Shift, Says He’ll Reject Public Financing. (Where's this "shift"? He said he would seek an agreement with the Republican nominee, and he did. The two camps were unable to agree.) A "News Analysis" piece lays the charge straight out: Obama’s Decision Threatens Public Financing System. And the lead editorial laments Public Financing On the Ropes, a situation for which it tells us Barack Obama is to blame, with no mention of Bush's emasculation of the FEC or McCain's primary-fund perfidy, even though they are clearly aware of these facts, as they've reported on them plenty of times before now.

One more big honkin' example of the free ride John McCain will continue to get from our sorry excuse for a press.

The only question is, are you just gonna sit there and let them get away with it?

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