I mentioned earlier today that it was quite a thing to see John McCain denouncing Barack Obama for breaking his word on public financing when McCain himself is at this moment breaking the law in continuing to spend over the spending limits he promised to abide by through the primary season in exchange for public financing. (By the FEC’s rules, we’re still in the primary phase of the election and will be until the conventions.)
I want to return to this subject though because this is not hyperbole or some throw away line. He’s really doing it. McCain opting into public financing, accepted the spending limits and then profited from that opt-in by securing a campaign saving loan. And then he used some clever, but not clever enough lawyering, to opt back out. And the person charged with saying what flies and what doesn’t — the Republican head of the FEC — said he’s not allowed to do that. He can’t opt out unilaterally unless the FEC says he can.
The most generous interpretation of what happened is that McCain’s lawyer came up with an ingenious legal two step that allowed him to double dip in the campaign finance system, eat his cake and spend it too. But even if you buy that line, successful gaming of the system doesn’t really count as strict adherence. And the point is irrelevant since the head of the FEC — a Republican — says McCain cannot do this on his own.
Like everything that has to do with campaign finance, the details are a little … well, detailed. But they’re worth understanding. Last February in this episode of TPMtv, we explained just how McCain cheated the campaign finance laws …