February 12, 2007

A Response From Team McCain

Yesterday I wrote about the Washington Post article that reported on the financial alliances John McCain has begun to build with financiers he previously criticized for their involvement in 527s. Later that evening, I received a note from the McCain campaign complaining that the Post article had been unfair in its treatment of McCain, and I offered an opportunity for a rebuttal. I had planned to add it to the original post, but it makes more sense to offer it as a separate thread for CQ readers:

The story's headline and central premise are inaccurate. This notion that there is a wide gulf between McCain the reformer and McCain the candidate is not borne out by the facts. Sen. McCain recognizes that if the FEC and Congress do nothing on 527s then Democrats and Republicans alike will use them. This is hardly an endorsement of 527s and the article would have you believe. Sen. McCain is not raising money for or taking money from 527s. He is successfully recruiting people to join his fundraising team who have also given to 527s. This doesn’t comes anywhere near substantiating the article's premise. That Mr. Perenchio and other large donors support Sen. McCain is a testament to his appeal as a candidate.

I have a couple of thoughts on this response. One, it's technically correct -- the campaign has brought these financiers aboard as direct fund-raisers, not for their connections to 527s. The Post article does report that, but it's not done clearly. Second, though, part of McCain's appeal for the BCRA is that campaigns shouldn't have large donors, and that the money corrupts the politicians by pressuring them to bend to the will of these large donors.

Under the rules as they exist now, McCain has done nothing illegal, and he should have the leeway to take full advantage of legal channels for contributions as any other candidate. However, we still have to consider his efforts to make these rules, the effect they have had on the campaign system, and on political speech when we evaluate him as a candidate. We also have to consider what kinds of changes he may make if given the power of the executive. As President, he would appoint commissioners to the FEC. How long before those commissioners start restricting political speech even further than they have at present?


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