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McCain Returns Donor Cash

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), talks on the phone while sitting with former Navy Secretary John Lehman on his campaign bus en-route to a fundraiser in Philadelphia, Thursday, March 13, 2008. (AP)

By Matthew Mosk
Sen. John McCain's campaign returned $3 million to donors this week, a campaign spokesman said, but not because he didn't want their money.

The accounting move was aimed at preserving his ability to accept public financing for the general election.

Candidates are allowed to accept $2,300 for their primary bid and a second $2,300 for the general election. If they choose to accept government support (to the tune of $80 million) for the general election, they have to send those second checks back.

But like many plans conceived by Congress, this one has a loophole. Certain activities can be financed by donors, even if the candidate accepts the public money. So along with the returned checks, McCain has sent his donors a letter asking them to send the money back his way, but redirected towards his campaign's special compliance fund.

All this activity offers the surest signal that McCain is planning to accept public funds for the general election. He would be eligible to receive the money after accepting his party's nomination at the national convention in September. McCain advisers said the move was "consistent with setting up the infrastructure so if we do take public financing we'll be ready for it."

That strategic decision could become one of the most significant storylines of the general election campaign -- that the eventual Democratic candidate could wind up being free to raise unlimited amounts while McCain would be hamstrung by the limits of the public financing system. Sen. Hillary Clinton long ago ruled out the idea of taking public funds if she is the nominee. Sen. Barack Obama had pledged to enter the public system if the Republican nominee did the same. But more recently, Obama has been less clear on his intentions.

The reason is clear enough. Democrats in the presidential field have for more than a year been out-raising GOP contenders. Obama and Clinton combined in March to raise more than $60 million -- more money in one month than McCain had raised over the past year. (McCain has not said how much he raised in March, but aides said it would not come close to Obama's $40 million haul).

The McCain campaign still appears intent on persuading Obama back into the public system, if he is the nominee. Spokesman Brian Rogers said: "If he steps away from this pledge, it leaves open the question whether he will backtrack on other pledges he makes to the American people."

By Web Politics Editor  |  April 4, 2008; 4:07 PM ET
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Until the post-FDR period, there was no law limiting Presidents to two terms but every President until FDR respected the two-term precident set by Washington. If both McCain and Obama embrace public finance for the GE this will set a powerful precedent and might be a good way to control the undue influence of money without having to resort to laws that become problematic in light of trying to balance free speech against the prevention of plutocracy. Regardless of who ended up winning, the precedent thus set would be a great thing for the health of our Republic and would redound to the great credit of both men, but especially Obama who probably has more to lose.

Posted by: andrew23boyle | April 6, 2008 12:32 AM | Report abuse

I agree with Andrew23boyle. It's scary that money is such a significant factor in this democratic primary. I also hope Obama keeps his word about public financing in the GE. What he does with this will speak volumes about his character.

Posted by: jcmdstep1 | April 5, 2008 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Kevinlarmee-Trying to Boldface down criticism only works on the weak-minded.

Unfortunately, it does work on the weak-minded! :-(

His Muslim-hood? Funny how he managed to "Convert" to a Church that espouses the exact same rhetoric as al-Sadr or al-Nasrallah. Very convenient that!

Black? Try Happa Haole. In Hawaii racial differences are mostly joked about, and Haoles catch it the worst-IE: Slap a Haole Day!

White?-He did throw his infidel Grandmother under the Bus!

Patriotism-Very! To the World Labor Party. BUT, G' D' White America!

Finally, just what would you call someone who spent every penny of over $60,000 of Charity on: A Pro-Black Church, Black Scholarship Fund, Africa CARE, Wife's Black Dance Group, and other Black Based Organizations-Exclusively.

Me, I do not swallow Proclamations. I look for ACTIONS.

What Barack Hussein has, and has not done, has sealed my opinion of Him!

I wish we could expel him and revoke his Citizenship!

Posted by: rat-the | April 5, 2008 11:34 AM | Report abuse

The influence of money is becoming poisonous in our Republic. It is really beginning to corrupt the electoral process, especially as such many of the electorate seem incapible of analysising an argument and are thus easily swayed by flashy TV ads.

I'm glad that McCain is given the money back; putting it where his mouth is, so to speak. It would be a great thing for our Republic if Obama would follow suit but I wouldn't blame him if he doesn't, depending on how serious this 'pledge' was.

(I frankly don't know, but like every other American, I state my opinion first and THEN do the research! USA USA USA!!)

Posted by: andrew23boyle | April 5, 2008 4:17 AM | Report abuse

I hope Obama gives it to them full throttle.I got my checkbook ready.

Posted by: majorteddy | April 5, 2008 12:48 AM | Report abuse

McCain reneged on his promise to use public funding for the primary race when he was able to raise more funds AFTER he used the public funding as collateral for a bank loan. This is an illegal step. Now he wants his Democratic competitor to be handicapped by such public funding while the Republicans will be able to use multimillions for privatizee Swiftboat-style-campaign tactics! McCain is at best disingenuous; more likely he is a Machiavellian plotter.

Posted by: shirleylim | April 4, 2008 11:35 PM | Report abuse


Pretend that you're a Democrat (Hillary supporter)

Smear Obama with any of the following:

1. He's a Muslim
2. He's not Black enough
3. He's not White enough
4. He's not patriotic
5. He's a racist

note: never address any "issues", instead smear him with any association: his pastor, someone who endorses him, his wife, his father,etc. always make racist commments (i.e. compare him to Jim Jones), put his middle name in capital letters...and MOST IMPORTANT repeat it over and over (check FoxNews for latest smear)

remember: Americans are stupid! (look how we got them in the Iraq war!)

if you repeat anything enough, they'll believe it.



* note: this is generally true, but if Hillary is nominated, it doesn't matter who gets can vote for whomever you want....McCain is slightly better, but both are in our lobby's pocket, i.e. both Clinton and McCain will put America in our WARS


but not Obama


Posted by: kevinlarmee | April 4, 2008 11:00 PM | Report abuse

President McCain, MY Bad! I did not realize there was such a SMALL limit involved.

If you would be so kind as to return the leftover surplus from that Million Dollar Cash Donation... ;~)

Posted by: rat-the | April 4, 2008 10:33 PM | Report abuse

Obama should challenge McCain to NOT accept public financing OR PAC money. Raise it from small donors, more than a million of them. Let the voters put their money where their mouths are. The lobbyists are panicking that, without PACs and big donors, they'll be left with No Influence in Washington. Sweeeet!

Posted by: thebobbob | April 4, 2008 7:47 PM | Report abuse

It would be a mistake for Obama to enter the public financing system. Not because public financing is not good in principle, but because of the many loop-holes in it. Although, under public financing, a candidate may be limited in their spending to the public funds allotted,surrogate groups (527's) who are not officially connected to the candidate may collect and spend as much money as they can. The "swift boat" campaign that smeared John Kerry is the best example of this. In reality, what would happen to Obama if he were to take public financing would be that the "swift boat" type groups would launch a massive smear campaign, and Obama, limited to public financing, would not have the money to match the spending efforts of the smear campaign to effectively respond. In effect, the dirty republican tricks machine would have the equivalent of a nuclear bomb, while Obama would simply have a machine gun to respond with. McCain knows this, so he doesn't have a problem taking public financing. He knows the 527's and the dirty republican tricks machine will have his back and will be the real spenders in the campaign.

Posted by: hesingswithfrogs | April 4, 2008 6:49 PM | Report abuse

If John McCain or the Republican believe they can out-raise either of the Democrats, he (McCain) would not be considering federal funding. If he was so much for public funding on principle, he should never have gone near private donations.
Why should Obama or Hillary be harmstrung by McCains inability to survive in the trench? This brings up another question.

Why is Obama being made to play to a different tune everytime one of his opponents can not match up with him at the rules they themselves helped set up?

McCain was the author of the public finance rules. He tried to duck it, failed, and now wants Obama to follow him...

Clinton was one of the architect of punishing Florida and Michigan, until she suddenly realized that her name recognition will help in states where Barack Obama does not campaign. And what do you have, she is now whining that those states should count.

Why must the blackman be expected to work twice as hard as his White peer in order to be acceptable?

Posted by: BartHusseinRogers | April 4, 2008 6:32 PM | Report abuse

I think Hillary "I CAN'T CONTROL MY HUSBAND" Clinton is hoping nobody will examine her finance record. She's taken tons of dirty money which will all be exposed prior to PA.

Posted by: blarsen1 | April 4, 2008 6:31 PM | Report abuse

John Hussain McCain said he will take public financing for primaries and flipflopped already on that. He has no right to hit obama on the same unless he agrees to call himself a hypocrite.

Posted by: catchsandy | April 4, 2008 6:18 PM | Report abuse

Republicans are sad; an angry tragedian...the worst America has to offer....

We have yet to endure the tactical and strategic blunder that the war in Iraq really is.

I know! Why don't we bomb other countries that have schools, water, power, and police for their people? We can quickly lower the population, while creating enemies for our industrial military complex?

How's that sound Republicans?

Bush Sees "Defining Moment" In Iraq? He saw WMD, Al Qaeda; mobile weapons labs, terrorist training facilities, missiles that could reach New York, 45-minute ready chemical weapons, none of which were there.

What he will see is his legacy and his Parties demise, but at least I got my $600 "tax-rebate" check from China!!

You wanna get some?....lets go.........other wise go sit in the corner with your talking point spewing fallacy of a constituency.....

The great Rousseau said it:
"...Conservatives have learned nothing and forgotten nothing"

Posted by: getcentered | April 4, 2008 6:15 PM | Report abuse

public financing is not the issue with Obama. The problem is the swift boat groups and other bad actors that would use $$$ to try and kill off Obama.
Clinton has shown that she will use every dirty trick possible and swifties will be far more agressive.
My fear is that Obama will not be hog tied.
IF McCain outside forces are not used then the playing field is even; otherwise as an OB supporter I say now way we have come too far. Change means no more will we stand for swift boat snipers. McCain understands this but Repubs are already corrupting the process by encouraging their folks to vote Clinton or Obama (u pick). It does not take a huge leap of imagination to be wary of swift boats.
Capital is a good thing. OB - I say you keep the money to be used should Mc not be able to hold swifty off.
Remember already many times Mc Repubs just hunches and says I cannot be responsible for what they say/do. Hagee for example.

Posted by: quecuwkiff | April 4, 2008 6:09 PM | Report abuse

I don't think McCain needs campaign cash to begin with, and if he does, the Lord will provide. I've enjoyed the past 7 years of Republican 'leadership' so much that I want four more. I'm sure most Americans share my feelings and will send Big Mac to the White House. =0)

Posted by: icantinaturner | April 4, 2008 6:09 PM | Report abuse

McS(h)ame wants it both ways.

Old man is only getting pennies saved by consumers from $4 GAS fillup so he goes for $80 PUBLIC MONEY and still wants to LOOT the Pennies indirectly as he knows he don't have "AMERICANS" behind him like Obama where 1 million Americans raised $40 Million a month.

And Poor Obama will be caught and will be asked to fight it in unfair way or should i say "REPUBLICAN WAY". There is even other quote "EVANGELICAL WAY". Those Evangelicals still enjoying Iraqi/Navy blood soaked bread and filling up their tanks $4 a gallon and hoping they could pay $6 a gallon for more bloodly bread.

Posted by: BrownShirtGeorge | April 4, 2008 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Public financing is an attempt to limit the influence of corporations, lobbyists and big money donors, relying on the American TAXPAYER to finance elections. Obama's campaign is funded by average American citizens, not lobbyists. That is the epitome of "public" financing. What would you rather have, your tax dollars going to pay for candidates, or their own supporters' money paying for their candidtaes?

Posted by: emanabat | April 4, 2008 6:01 PM | Report abuse

I think it's worth noting that the Clinton tax returns and this news on McCain are both coming out late Friday afternoon, when the candidates think no one will be paying attention to to the news.

Personally, I hope Barack "his middle name shouldn't matter" Obama will accept public financing. I've personally donated money to his campaign, but I feel that he should live up to his pledge.

Posted by: billycorriher | April 4, 2008 5:54 PM | Report abuse

At least the Clintons' tax returns are overshadowing any problem with McCain's campaign finances at the moment ; )

Posted by: JakeD | April 4, 2008 5:18 PM | Report abuse

What's more, bsimon, if Barack HUSSEIN Obama goes back on his word re: public financing, all bets are off and John SIDNEY McCain can legitimately opt out as well.

Posted by: JakeD | April 4, 2008 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Its a good tactic. Either Dem can out-raise McCain. Taking the Fed funds is a good move, for the reasons JakeD so eloquently points out, and just as a tactic to walk the talk of McCain-Feingold. He'd be rightly skewered for forgoing public funding, after getting that legislation passed.

Posted by: bsimon | April 4, 2008 4:44 PM | Report abuse

It will be funny to hear the Republican Party wax eloquent about the virtues of public financing after years of outraising and outspending Democrats. Just like you hear a lot about the Rule of Law and protecting the Constitutional rights of American Citizens. I guess personal morality is out of favor too. Next thing you know, they'll insist on bringing back the Special Prosecutor law.

Posted by: thebobbob | April 4, 2008 4:29 PM | Report abuse

I agree -- if Barack HUSSEIN Obama steps away from this pledge, it leaves open the question whether he will backtrack on other pledges he makes to the American people.

Posted by: JakeD | April 4, 2008 4:12 PM | Report abuse

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