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February 24, 2008

McCain and the sleaze factor

I think it's important to restate in plain English what John McCain did wrong when he held out public money to secure a private campaign loan.

Did McCain's loan deal break laws or FEC rules? Does it lock McCain into the public system until the primary? I'm going to leave those arguments to the lawyers.

I'm asking whether McCain's campaign finance scheme is consistent with the image of moral rectitude he so confidently projects.

McCain applied for public financing back when his campaign was struggling. When his fortunes improved and spending limits became inconvenient, McCain wanted out. Ironically, a champion of campaign finance reform couldn't live with his own system.

By this point, the FEC had already approved $5.8 million in matching funds for him, but the money hadn't changed hands yet. This is an important point because once a candidate accepts public money, s/he can no longer opt out of the program.

So, McCain still had time for a quasi-honorable bailout, if he had been willing to make a clean break and proceed at his own risk--but he wasn't willing to forgo the safety net.

If McCain refused matching funds, he would need big loans. Back in December, when the loan deal was hatched, it wasn't clear that McCain was going to win.

Banks aren't stupid. They won't lend you millions of dollars without some assurance that you'll pay them back. So, the bank had a legitimate concern: How would McCain pay back the loan if his primary campaign imploded?

Here's how the McCain team reassured the bank that they were good for the money:

The plan was to opt out and fund raise like hell. If that worked out, great. But if they started losing, they promised to opt back into the public system. Then, they'd take that $5.8 million the government had already promised them, and use it to repay the bank.

McCain's deal had very serious political and ethical implications. If worse had come to worst, he would have been contractually obliged to stay in a hopeless race, just to get his hands on those matching funds.  An ethical candidate weighs many factors when deciding whether to stay in a losing race, including the best interests of country, party, and family. McCain was willing to give final say to the bank.

McCain was all for public financing when his campaign needed public assistance. When the attendant restrictions became inconvenient, he wanted out. That's a little embarrassing for a self-styled ethics crusader, but it's understandable given the exigencies of politics.

But instead of making a good faith decision to set out on his own, at his own risk, McCain fell back on the promise of government money to get a private loan.

He didn't risk his own house or any of his considerable personal wealth. No, he put up our money as security for his gamble.

John McCain got that loan by holding out the promise of a public bailout. 

McCain was gambling with public money to secure debt he incurred when he decided to ditch public financing! How's that for integrity?


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Thank you for this clear and concise statement both of the facts and of the ethical issues involved.

What's ironic is that Republicans and conservatives generally are loud about so-called "moral hazard," wherein risks and rewards get separated, leading to inefficient and unethical decision making. I have never bought into the McCain hagiography but apparently a lot of people have done so.

What's that, Lindsay? You believed that stuff about John McCain's integrity? Silly you. That's just a line of BS for the suckers.

I've never believed the McCain hype. He showed his true colors during Savings & Loan.

Yes. Thanks for explaining the stakes here. I'd like to think that this kind of chicanery would tarnish McCain's "Mr. Clean" reputation with the press, but we'll probably grow old waiting for that. Sigh.

I have my own issues with McCain --he has been weak on illegal immigration--but this issue is completely bogus.

If its legal for him to a) finance his campaign privately, b) finance his compaign publicly, c) switch from b to a, and
if it was legal for him to take out loans based on anticipated public or, presumably, private financing--then what exactly is the problem?

If taking out a loan based on anticipated public funds disqualifies one from switching to private financing, that's another matter--as I said earlier, its something that brings him a a few millimeters closer to "the line" but should not take him beyond any ethical boundary.

Change the law if you don't like it. McCain and his campaign have not broken any law with this.

This is a non-issue. And soon we shall see the a very interesting campaign between McCain and the blank slate from Illinois.

Let's all celebrate with The Phantom that the Republicans have found a candidate of whom it can be said, it looks as if he didn't actually break the law he wrote and promoted as a symbol of his integrity.


He didn't break the law and I don't think that he broke the spirit of the law.

This is being hyped as an issue for the McCain haters who have been praying for something to hang their hats on. Rush Limbahhh and his friends should have great fun tomorrow.

Nearly noone else will care. It's a "gotcha" issue, except you didn't get him on anything. Sorry.

I'm assuming for the sake of argument that what McCain did was completely legal. It's still sleazy. No ethical person would even consider the deal McCain struck with the bank.

McCain knew that if campaign faltered, which was a very real possibility, he could be required to campaign in bad faith just to score public money to repay his debts--nevermind what might have been in the best interests of his party, or the country at large. He signed over control of his campaign for money. He pledged to campaign on a lie, if necessary.

That's despicable, even if it is legal.

. . . its legal for him to a) finance his campaign privately, b) finance his campaign publicly, c) switch from b to a . . .

Sure it is, but after you’ve done so don’t tell me about your noble position on campaign financing.

Republicans generally can’t find their asses with both hands but they do excel at reading the fine print when it suits their purposes.

Not conceding the despicable accusation, then the issue is just the taking out of the make campaign loans illegal for everybody, or just for those who have accepted public financing.

I have problems with banning loans, as it would give undue advantage to those with big time union or business machines behind them, or to incumbents or to those who pretended they were a kind of incumbent ( Hillary) . But yes the possibility of a sham campaign to pay off the loan is disturbing. ( A possibility that won't be the case here )

But none of this has much to do with the shift from public to private financing.

--fine print--

No, don't concede that either. The Clinton family gave Hillary's campaign a loan. I think that other candidates have received loans.

Its not fine print, its no print, and there is nothing wrong with any of it.

Call it sleazy all day long, it does not make it so.

I wouldn't go so far as calling it despicable. It's more just like politics as usual. The thing is though, McCain has told us ever since the lower Paleocene that he plays by different rules. He's not guilty of any legal transgressions, he's not particularly sleazy compared to other politicians, he's just full of shit.

I don't think that he broke the spirit of the law

I'm amazed you can type that with a straight face.

We disagree. Gotta go.

As it's often been said (and forgotten) in politics, perception is everything.

*heh* and the right-wingers think he's not one of them. . .

Ah, the good old Democrat playbook. When you have nothing else, get upset over nothing. I'll concede that McCain broke the law according to the left...but only those not on the left can break the law. If Clinton or Obama did the exact same thing, there'd be no problem.

It's all relative. Right and wrong are subjective and open to interpretation, except conservatism which is always wrong. No wonder the left doesn't believe in standards. It would involve being consistent.


He is. But he is a thinking righty.

"Ah, the good old Democrat playbook. When you have nothing else, get upset over nothing"

Because the Republicans have only gotten upset over things that have mattered over the past couple decades. Right . . . Last I checked, Republicans are getting upset over Obama not wearing an American flag pin. So, whatever one might think of the merits of the complaints against McCain, let's not make blanket statements that show more ignorance than reasoned thought.

Sure, maybe it's legal. But, last I checked everything that's legal isn't always ethical. And, like others have said here, if you're going to make ethics your selling point you had better be ethical as well. But, using public money as your own private safety net without accepting the drawbacks of it as well is not what one might call ethical.

"Ah, the good old Democrat playbook. When you have nothing else, get upset over nothing"

Well, you know it works both ways. Turn on Fair and Balanced™ FOX news right now and watch Bill “Loofah” O’Reilly get the fantods over Michelle Obama’s NOT LOVING AMERICA!!!!!!!!!!!

What's with the ol' cranky moniker? Anyway, I agree that just because something is legal doesn't make it ethical. However, if you're going to use that standard, apply it consistently. Otherwise you're just a hypocrite (and most partisans are). The only difference is righties call those whom they disagree with traitors and commies. The left prefers to use the terms racist and hate-mongers. Both sides have more in common these days than they think...particularly the inability to have an intelligent, factual discussion on the issues.

McCain clearly broke the law.

With public financing he automatically got ballot access worth 2 million at least. Once he used that, he could not opt out.

With the loan, if the 5 million had already been promised by the FEC, then if he uses that promise as collateral, he is using public funds to finance his private campaign. Illegal.

McCain was part of the Keating 5 and for some reason he avoided jail when at least 3 others did their time.

Now we have Ismen the female lobbyist and McCain jetting around on private corporate jets, letter writing for her clients, and being warned that their relationship would cause image problems.

Of course McCain is pro the integration with Mexico in the North American Union Bush has agreed to.

McCain's Hispanic Outreach person was a Cabinet member in Mexico's Vicente Fox's government and is openly for reconquest of Southwest USA. Some of his comments.

“I never knew the border as a limitation; I’d be delighted if all of us could come and go between these two marvelous countries.”

“We have recognized that the Mexican population is 100 million in Mexico and 23 million who live in the United States…We are a united nation.”

Mexican immigrants “are going to keep one foot in Mexico and are not going to assimilate.”

“We are betting that the Mexican population in the United States …will think Mexico first.”

Check Judicial Watch and read the Bush government that says that as Americans will resist North American integration. it has to be done in secret, and implemented by "evolution stealth". You can also read the agendas of meetings between USA/Mexico/Canada on infrastructure integration and open borders.

Check Jeff Hoards videos (google Jeff Hoards) showing our politicians lying about the existence of the North American Highway which is being built right now.

NAFTA SUPER HIGHWAY & look at the report on real ID PSA

McCain is will dance to the Neo Con's tune.

An unfolding story about Obama will hurt him big time.

Unless these reports of an Obama-Ayers-Dohrn tie are all lies and bullshit, Obama is a lame duck candidate right now.

This from somebody who complains about hijacking threads.

This troglodyte is a prominent right-wing thinker on your thread, Lindsay? It's a real failure. There's much better out there.

The Phantom,

Those connections are extremely weak. Do you really want a campaign based on the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game? Because that's what you seem to be advocating.

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