RNC Victory Fund Donors Stay Cloaked
By Matthew Mosk and Sarah Cohen
Sen. John McCain has filed campaign finance reports today that provide details about the $27 million he raised in July.
But the same cannot be said for the McCain victory funds overseen by the Republican National Committee. The RNC is filing those reports on a quarterly basis. That means the public will have to wait until Oct. 15 -- two weeks before Election Day -- to learn the identities of the large donors who are ponying up as much as $70,000 per person to support McCain's presidential bid.
The Democratic National Committee's fundraising counterpart is filing its forms monthly.
Fred Wertheimer, a campaign finance lawyer who runs the advocacy group Democracy 21 said the rules that govern party committee reports were set out in the landmark legislation championed by McCain, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, better known as McCain-Feingold. That law specifies that it "requires monthly reports by national party committees."
FEC spokesman Bob Biersack said that, because the victory funds involve money for both federal and state party accounts, they're not purely a national party committee and are permitted to file quarterly. That's also the reading of RNC lawyers, according to a party official, who said the GOP treasurer chose file only quarterly "for administrative reasons, because the accounting is so difficult."
Regardless of the legal question, Wertheimer says victory funds should be filing monthly, so donors' names can be subject to public review.
"I think the presidential candidates are responsible for insuring disclosure here," Wertheimer said. "Disclosure is a basic prerequisite of campaign finance laws and the only reason for not filing this information monthly would appear to be to hide the information from the public. This information should not be hidden from anyone."
That said, a careful review of McCain's reports give some clues as to the identities of the people contributing to the victory funds. That's because the first $2,300 collected by the RNC's fund is automatically transfered into McCain's account, so long as those people have never given to McCain before. About 1,600 donors fit that pattern in July, accounting for $5.6 million in funds transfered to McCain from the Victory account.
A number of GOP luminaries show up among those whose money was transfered. Mitt Romney gave to the fund in July. So did former secretary of state James A. Baker III and Patricia Bush, the wife of former president George H. W. Bush's younger brother. Former defense secretary Caspar Weinberger is there, as are former Tennessee senator William H. Frist and his wife.
Another is Mercer Reynolds, Jr., who was finance chair for George W. Bush, who in turn appointed him ambassador to Switzerland. And there are eight members of the Lindner family -- though not prolific GOP donor Carl Lindner, who was chairman of Chiquita Brands International. Also donating was R. James Nicholson, who apparently did not provide the name of his employer to the party (it says "Information requested" where it should name his employer and occupation).
He was Secretary of Veterans Affairs until October of last year, and is a former Republican Party chairman.
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