The Green Zone
Judge Rebuffs DNC Lawsuit Against McCain
Updated 6:35 p.m.
By Matthew Mosk
A federal judge has turned back the Democratic National Committee's attempt to mount a legal challenge against Sen. John McCain for his decision to withdraw from the presidential public financing system.
Judge John Bates said the DNC failed to wait 120 days for the Federal Election Commission to contend with the complaint, as the law requires.
Late last year, McCain had expressed an interest in the presidential matching funds program for the primaries because he was running so low on cash. But as his campaign gathered strength, he wrote to the FEC to declare he was no longer interested in participating. (The public financing program can help candidates maximize the value of each donation they get, but candidates who take the money must abide by strict spending limits.) Democrats have argued that McCain had forfeited his ability to withdraw from the matching program because he had already made use of the program -- borrowing $4 million from a D.C.-area bank, and holding out the potential for matching funds as collateral.
The DNC complaint though, will have to wait, according to the judge. Even though the FEC lacks a quorum to act on the complaint right now, it still could convene before the end of 120 days, the time the agency is alloted to review complaints.
RNC Chief Counsel Sean Cairncross called the DNC complaint a "publicity stunt."
"Despite having wasted the resources of the federal court system for weeks now, we predict the DNC will again file suit in late June, when the Court said the statute first allows them to object to FEC non-action on their complaint," Carincross said in a statement e-mailed to reporters.
DNC spokeswoman Stacie Paxton predicted the judge's ruling wouldn't be the end of things. "John McCain still thinks the rules apply to everyone but him," she said. "Unless there is a serious and timely investigation underway by the FEC, we will be back in court in the end of June to hold McCain accountable for breaking the law."
Posted at 6:07 PM ET on May 14, 2008
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