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Outside Group Help for McCain Allowable, After All

By Matthew Mosk
Earlier this week, Democrats raised concerns about what they said was a disconcerting pattern involving Sen. John McCain's campaign advertising and commercials being aired by the advocacy group Vets for Freedom.

It appeared to the Democrats that when Vets for Freedom started airing $1 million in television ads promoting McCain's Iraq strategy and echoing some of his campaign message, the group might be coordinating the placement of the ads with the McCain campaign. Officials with Vets for Freedom and McCain campaign manager Rick Davis both flatly denied their efforts were coordinated.

Such coordination between a third-party group and a political campaign is typically a major no-no under the provisions of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reforms that seek to eliminate that kind of cross talk. But maybe Vets for Freedom and the McCain campaign don't have anything to worry about.

Today, veteran campaign finance lawyer and reform advocate Fred Wertheimer pointed out that coordination would have been perfectly allowable in this instance.

The reason? According to Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, there is a loophole in Federal Election Commission regulations that says, so long as the ads in question don't mention a candidate or political party, there is no restriction on coordination.

"Based on the regulations that exist now, a candidate can coordinate with a third party spender on ads that don't mention any candidate or party. That's just a factual statement. They can coordinate," Wertheimer said. "Clearly we need regulations to deal with this kind of situation, and right now we don't have any."

Concern about this loophole was raised with FEC lawyers in 2006, in a footnote of a letter sent by Wertheimer and other top campaign lawyers. It identified "a flaw in the 2002 rule ... [that has] permitted coordination right up to the day of the election on 'thematic' ads -- ads that echo a candidate's positions on key issues but do not mention the name of the candidate (or party). Such ads ... could be of significant benefit to the candidate, particularly if coordinated."

By Web Politics Editor  |  July 11, 2008; 5:40 PM ET
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MoveOn.Org lampoons conservatives everyday.

IT hasn't been reported in the press (of course), but I'd like to know how many "donations" were made by MoveOn & George Soros to democrat delegates that switched to Obama? Can you say "buy votes"?

Posted by: FastFred | July 13, 2008 4:15 AM | Report abuse

Swiftboating = telling the out the people that served with Kerry (the traitor - who met with the enemy and should have been tried for treason). How many support his record vs don't? Umm...if democracy rules...he's a liar.'s OK for MOVEON to keep pushing their agenda in lock step with liberals....but no chastizing of them? Yeah right.

Posted by: MakeUsProud | July 12, 2008 5:11 PM | Report abuse

if people would actually read the law this wouldn't be an issue.

however, you have so many damn armchairs lawyers in DC posing as political operatives that you can't get the straight story.

i wonder if VFF will go after everyone who libeled them this week.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2008 7:02 PM | Report abuse

I love swift boating, blows the dirt off and exposes the turth!

Posted by: theaz | July 11, 2008 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Republicans = Swiftboating scumbags

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2008 5:55 PM | Report abuse

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