With the presidential primary race well under way, the meter has started running on fundraising and spending. Ironically, deficit hawk John McCain has taken the lead on the latter, lapping his competition while doling out over $7 million for his start-up and support for Republicans in the midterms:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) spent $7.8 million last year to assist other politicians and get his fledgling presidential bid underway, an early sign of the intensity of the spending that is expected to become a fixture of the 2008 campaign.
Among those candidates who had filed 2006 year-end reports with the Federal Election Commission late yesterday, none had come close to spending so much so early on the preparations for the presidential election.
Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) spent $3.4 million, ex-New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani (R) spent $2.4 million and ex-Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) had spent $2.1 million from his federal leadership committee by the end of November. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) doled out $1.7 million through her leadership committee, much of it on presidential groundwork, even as she sought reelection to the Senate.
That’s an impressive figure, but it points out the amount of effort it will take McCain to garner mainstream support within his own party. Given McCain’s status in the Senate, it doesn’t surprise that he could raise that much money. However, it does seem surprising that he had to spend that much more than a year before the first primary contest, and that he didn’t bank that for the tough 2007 phase of the campaign.
It does seem a bit unseemly for the man who demanded reform of campaign finance to shell out so much money for his own candidates in the midterms. I’m not exactly complaining, as I’m sure it went to assist Republicans, and Presidential candidates get judged on their ability to help others get elected. Nevertheless, McCain has damaged freedom of political speech with his supposed reform of campaign financing, attempting to rid the process of the damaging effects of cash overdoses. McCain used his own cash to build a constituency of politicians in order to advance his personal and organizational goals. How exactly is that different than what he decries?