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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

John McCain: Expert on gaming the system
Posted by Jill | 6:43 AM
You'd almost have to admire the man if he weren't so sleazy. Insulated by the media from any besmirching of his reputation as a "maverick", protected by having his name on campaign finance reform laws, he's been granted a completely free pass from the media for the way he's gaming the system, while Chris Matthews and Joe Scarborough have the vapors because Barack Obama, who said he would accept federal funding IF (emphasis on IF) his opponent agreed to as well. That McCain didn't announce his decision to accept federal funding until AFTER Obama announced he was opting out has not been reported.

During the primary race, McCain sidestepped regulations on federal funding by using funding he expected to receive as collateral for a campaign loan -- and then opted out. This is illegal, but as we now know, and to paraphrase Richard Nixon, when John McCain does it, it is NOT illegal.

Andrew Romano at Newsweek.com explains how McCain is still gaming the system:

When you combine McCain's individual war chest with his party's bankroll, it turns out the Republican nominee has about $90 million currently burning a hole in his pocket, while Obama and the DNC weigh in at a relatively paltry $47 million, or half as much. And even though McCain has agreed to an $84.1 spending limit by accepting public funds--a decision he likes to portray as a principled stand against the corrupting influence of money on politics--at least double that sum will be dropped on his behalf before Election Day thanks to loopholes in the law that allow outside groups to effectively skirt such limits with largely unregulated "soft money" contributions.


Well, that's no longer a theoretical proposition. Starting last weekend, McCain finally saw the first tangible benefits of his joint fundraising account with the RNC--just as moneyed interests unable to donate directly to the senator's taxpayer-sponsored campaign began to reveal how they plan to circumvent spending limits and play an outsized part in the election.

First up: the RNC. On Sunday, OnMessage Inc., a Virginia-based company with Republican ties, rolled out a series of pro-McCain, anti-Obama television ads in the battleground states of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The energy-centric campaign--a $3 million RNC buy set to air over 10 days--is a perfect example of how, when it comes to spending, the distinction between McCain and the RNC is pretty much irrelevant. While McCain is "pushing his own party to face climate change," says the ad's announcer, "Barack Obama... just says no to lower gas taxes... no to nuclear... and no to more production." This is exactly the same (misleading) message McCain's campaign delivered in a spot released online late last month. But because McCain "had nothing do with the [new] ads," and the RNC merely funded the spots--it apparently didn't consult on content--they're subject to neither the candidate's $84.1 million spending limit nor the $20 million cap on what the party can spend in coordination with the campaign. In other words, the RNC can invest unlimited sums of money in commercials like this. Given that GOP donors can each contribute $28,500 to the national party--or about $25,000 more than Dems can give directly to Obama--expect to see plenty more On Message-style spots before Election Day. After all, it's not like they're going to sound any different from the ads McCain would air if he could afford to.

Meanwhile, McCain campaign is stepping around federal spending limits by funneling cash through the state and national party machinery--and potentially benefiting from donations to a non-RNC organization that could boost his chances in key states.

Will any of this matter? Hardly. John McCain still makes Chris Matthews' Little Chris stand up at attention, and the fact that John McCain is still, despite the "maverick" image he's worked so hard to cultivate, the same guy who was one of the Keating Five, seems not to matter. Because after all, he gave the press barbecue ribs. And that entitles him to be as much of a hypocrite as he likes, and as phony as he likes. Because wud-be preznit giv me ribs so he get donuts apple good cookie.

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