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McCain's FEC Problem

It's really unclear as to what might happen next. McCain's lawyer says he's out of the system and that's that. It's unclear if they'll respond to Mason's letter. And it's unclear if the FEC can do anything or be forced to do anything, without the necessary quorum. It's literally an unprecedented situation.

For now, however, the consequences for the dispute are mostly political for McCain, as election law expert Rick Hasen writes:

McCain faces at least a political problem. More than anyone else, Sen. McCain's name is synonymous with campaign finance reform (think McCain-Feingold). If he's arguably in violation of the law, that will tarnish his reputation. He may be able to make technically correct arguments that he is not in violation, but the smell is bad.

Note: Hasen cites Mark Schmitt on a certain irony. Pretty much everyone agrees that the public financing system for the primaries is broken -- the spending limits are too low and the payouts are too late (March). As Steve Weissman of the Campaign Finance Institute put it to me, the primary system in its current state is "basically only for losing candidates" -- candidates without the fundraising wherewithal to really compete.

But McCain has refused to support efforts to fix the system, so in a way, he has himself to blame for the fact that the system is so unworkable that he's possibly bent the rules to get out of it.