McCain’s Illegal Campaign

Jane Hamsher points to a Boston Globe article that looks at how perceived campaign finance guru John McCain  is  engaging in illegal campaigning that gives lie to his reputation. Unfortunately the Globe article, by Susan Milligan, fails to fully grasp how clearly in the wrong McCain is. Jane rightly points to this line:

During the Republican primaries, McCain took out a $4 million line of credit for his then-flagging campaign, using the promise of federal matching funds as collateral. But after his candidacy rebounded, he never actually accepted the federal funds, allowing him to raise and spend more private money.

This looks to me like an instance where a reporter starts down the right path when describing a story, but, upon arriving at the rub that makes McCain look bad, turns back and toes his campaign’s line on what happened and why he’s not actually in trouble.

I also think it’s worth remembering that while McCain has a reputation for being a proponent of campaign finance reform, the presidential matching funds system predates McCain’s entry into Congress by many, many years. As such, it’s not that McCain is flip-flopping by violating legislation that he helped author. Instead, he’s just simply breaking the law by campaigning in large excess past the caps set for a candidate in the matching funds system.

This is an important distinction because the charge of flip-flopping or hypocrisy concedes that McCain has a reputation as a campaign finance reformer. As we’re likely to hear a lot of that from the press both in this story and throughout the campaign, I’d be happier to not reinforce that narrative and just focus on the fact that he’s breaking a law that he played no role in passing.

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