February 24th, 2008
04:30 PM ET
10 years ago

Dean says McCain skirts election law with campaign loan

Dean accused McCain Sunday of skirting election laws.

Dean accused McCain Sunday of skirting election laws.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean accused Republican presidential front-runner John McCain of trying to skirt campaign finance laws Sunday by trying to opt out of public financing for his primary campaign.

Dean told reporters that McCain has already used the prospect of nearly $6 million in federal matching funds - which he now says he won't claim - as collateral for a January campaign loan and to obtain automatic ballot access in every state. Dean said he was filing a complaint with the Federal Election Commission to block McCain from quitting the public financing system, which imposes a spending cap on candidates.

"The law is very, very clear," Dean said. "He cannot be let out of the matching fund program if he has already used the promise of matching funds for loan collateral, and it's already clear from his FEC report that he has used that promise."

FEC Chairman David Mason raised similar questions about the loan agreement in a letter to the McCain campaign last week. But the Arizona senator's campaign has said its existing request with the FEC was never part of the terms of the loan, merely the possibility of future payouts.

Dean said the issue was a test of McCain's integrity. But McCain spokesman Brian Rogers accused the Democratic chief of "breathtaking" hypocrisy, since Dean opted out of public financing for his 2004 White House bid.

Mason asked the McCain campaign last week to provide more information about the terms of the loan before his agency rules on whether or not the Arizona senator will be required to remain within the federal financing system.

But FEC, which regulates campaign financing, is currently hamstrung by vacancies - four of the commission's six seats are currently empty, and a deadlock between President Bush and the Senate has stalled nominees for those posts.

McCain, a chief advocate of campaign finance reform, sought the option of public financing last fall when his campaign was in dire need of money. He notified the FEC in early February that he was not claiming federal matching funds, which would limit his spending on the primary campaign to $54 million.

But Dean said McCain has already spent nearly $50 million as of his last filing - "So it's likely he has already exceeded his spending limitation."

"He has made a career out of posing as a reformer," Dean said. "And the truth is, the reforms he's proposed apply to everybody but him. We've seen this again and again and again."

In response, McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said McCain has done nothing more than Dean did in 2003, when he refused public financing for his unsuccessful presidential bid.

"Howard Dean's hypocrisy is breathtaking given that in 2003 he withdrew from the matching funds system in exactly the same way that John McCain is doing today," Rogers said in a written statement.

But in his Sunday conference call with reporters, Dean said that unlike McCain, the FEC voted to allow him to get out of financing system - and his campaign spent its own money on ballot access, a benefit to McCain that Dean estimated at between $2 million and $3 million. He also said he never used the potential of receiving FEC funds as collateral for a private loan.

- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney

Filed under: Howard Dean • John McCain
soundoff (64 Responses)
  1. JR, Columbus, Ohio

    Who is Howard Dean?

    February 24, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  2. C

    Stick with it Dean.

    McCain is slipping deeper into the pockets of lobbyists and special interest.

    This is no good for anyone....left, right, middle, Dem, Rep, or Indy.

    The objective is to get these influences out.

    Hopefully, you can set an example for the Justice Dept. to grow a set too, and begin more intensive investigations of the existing admin. There are precedents to be set there also.

    The ends will never justify the means, if the means are contempt and corruption.

    February 24, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  3. John Stevens

    Perhaps this 'might' be the reason MCCain was pushing Obama to take public funding.

    Although I support Clinton and the general idea of public funding – the spending by outside groups really makes limits to some extent meaningless.

    February 24, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  4. Carol

    Oh Dean shut-up. You're just trying to stick up for your boy toy Obama. Obama whines enough on his own, he doesn't need you adding to it.

    Obama... the perfect whiny candidate for whiny men.

    Isn't anyone but me sick of these woosies?

    I wouldn't question McCain's integrity when it looks like Obama is getting the nom. That's hypocritical.

    February 24, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  5. Tom Wittmann

    Aside from Howard Dean credibility:.....
    What kind of stupid argument is the about hat he has used the public funds as collateral for other loans ?
    1) In first place, if he did given the AVAILABILITY of these funds as collateral, this would have meant that he could not spent them

    2) Obviously, if he renounce now to draw these public funds, the creditors where such collateral was used will ask him for another collateral and he will (must) provide them and surly this is already agreed.

    So, this seems to be a non issue, unless somebody can tell me otherwise.

    The REAL problem is that the FEC must approve the withdrawal and there is the problem of the unrelated Congress nominations.
    Of course, this will be solved

    By the way:

    – are candidates which provide false or misleading informations to their donors about the justification of the use of this money not guilty
    of collecting money under false premises ??COLLECTING MONEY UNDER FALSE PREMISES (??) , as:

    1) By saying that there are very good possibilities to win the majority of
    delegates (Hillary),
    2) By saying that a brokered convention and a nomination there is a
    distinct possibility (Huckabee)
    3) By not visibly using the funds obtained for the campaign (PAUL)


    February 24, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  6. U.S. Army Vet.

    This is a good democratic tactic. Dean is fighting to keep the possible democratic candidate's financing fully available.

    February 24, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  7. dan

    lets get real and do the staight talk express that is at much of mccain's slogan,explain this!

    February 24, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  8. chevy

    another bullet on my reason why i dont trust McCain.

    February 24, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  9. jm

    Howard Dean should just shut up considering the Democrats if they nominate Obama will lose FLorida and Michigan will be closer than it shouls be because of his lack of leadership.

    February 24, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  10. Arrthur Elmer

    McCain is nothing more than a political opportunist that sways with the mood of the country at any given moment.
    He is like the president we have, he says things but never backs them up with actions.
    He and the president tries to use the troop build up as making gains, but they forget that Al Sadr has held the cease fire he called last summer and now has extended it. They forget to tell you the purpose they said was the need for the troop build up was so the "so called elected leaders" would have time and relief to settle their differences and make some decisions which or course has not been done. When they say some gains have been made, they are so small you can hardly tell the difference.
    The government is nothing more than a puppet government installed by Bush and company and without the support of our military would fall in lest than a week.
    If Al Sadr had not called and made the cease fire stick, we would be just killing more of our military.
    The whole country is not worth the life of one our citizens. If they did no have oil we would not be there in the first place.
    Bush and Cheney want to steal the oil and fill their pockets with oil money, from all the oil companies to keep the price by using Bush's continuous fear speeches to do just that

    February 24, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  11. Beenburrito

    I'd say Dean needs a commitment from obama about campaign spending as well. Not too long ago when asked about it, obama did not give an answer...wait, that's what he always does...no real answers.


    February 24, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  12. stan

    blah, blah, blah! since you don't want to count my florida vote, i'm giving it to mccain in november...that and money...

    February 24, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  13. Juan Grain

    Don't worry about McCain, there is not enough money on the planet to get someone elected that wants to carry on the current Bush policies. And unfortunatly for McCain he qualifies. he will have enough trouble finding someone stupid enough to run as his running mate in a campaign that is sure to loose, ask Edwards who wants that on theire political career. If I was in the GOP I would rather be on Obama's ticket.

    February 24, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  14. JennyM

    OBAMA should just raise as much money as he can . The ONLY reason McCain wants federal funding is because he took a loan against that funding. lol Then he accuses Obama of not keeping his agreement lol .. MR CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM

    February 24, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  15. Bill Jay

    Howard, temper temper......you are not running, so shut up already.

    February 24, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  16. Daniel

    John McCain" presumptive image as a Mr. Clean is being revised.with his own omissions and admissions!!!s

    February 24, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  17. eyeingtenure

    I'm afraid Dean's wrong. The law is not "very, very clear." That's why there's this fuss to begin with.

    February 24, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  18. Dennis Ford

    Crude oil is at 100.00 a barel. One campain isuse is about securing our border , SO Instead of spending alot of money on border patrol , give them jobs. Make ethanol plants and establish trade and who ever doesn't work in ethanol plants or complimentry industrys like aiculture and wants to work in the states ,just tax them.
    If gobal warming is real, ethanol puts much less co2 in the atmosphere and cuts down dependance of the US on oil. This is working on the problem to a much greater degree than using the right lite bulb.

    February 24, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  19. joe m.

    gov. dean needs to focus more on how the democratic party will avoid a collision with a brokered convention. he needs to address,now, the issue of super delegates and FL & MI. if there are three thigns one could list out as possible causes for another democratic defeat in a general election, these three will probably appear high on most people's lists. as head of the DNC gov. dean needs to address these issues now, long before the convention. if gov. dean fails to put forward real solutions to these issues, then the DNC needs to evalute his continued leadership. no longer is the general election a 'sure thing' for democrats. the dynamics of this race has evolved.

    February 24, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  20. Ted

    If McCain notified FEC that he will be withdrawing from the Federal matching fund in early february, why he is trying to force Obama to accept federal matching fund because in a questionaira, Obama states that if his Republican opponent will accept the fund he will also consider it.

    This is hypocrisy at its height. If the guy have reached the limit of the federal matching fund there is no way he is going to accept it.

    It look like he wanted to put the spotlight on Obama in the public while he thinks his contradicting action behind the scene will not come to the public.

    Despite Obama's statement, it is obviously not possible for him to accept federal matching funds at this time. The Democrates have spend far more money in this primary than the republican and I believe Obama or Clinton have spend twice more than the limit on federal matching funds. If any of them foolishly accept federal matching funds, it means they will have nothing to spend during the primary and they would be fulfilling the wish and goal of McCain and the Republicans.

    This is dirty politics.

    Go Democrates!

    February 24, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  21. Dominoid

    In the documentation from his loan (found elsewhere with an easy search) is seems very clear that he used the promise of the matching campaign money as collateral for his loan. I don't see how he gets out of this one. It is also the reason why you haven't heard him call out Obama on accepting public financing for the general election in the last few days. It is because he has his own mess! How can Obama in good faith enter into an agreement with someone who broke the rules for accepting matching funds with the FEC in the primaries? You can't.

    February 24, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  22. jp/michigan

    Mr.Dean a question , I thought not democratic candidate was to campaign in Florida. Why did Barak Obama spend 1.3 million campaign money in Florida? Why did he spent $130,00 in Michigan , when wasn't even on the ballot?

    February 24, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  23. AJ, IL

    Get 'em Dean! The "Straight Talk Express" is all about breaking rules that apply to him. McCain should not be allowed to break his "word" on getting public campaign financing in the primary process. It is about time the DNC stepped up!

    Obama in 08!

    February 24, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  24. Gary Mitchell

    I suspicion that the McCain folks will use the Bush formula. Why would they allow little things like the constitution and the law to prevent them from attempting to buy the White House when they could take it to the Supreme (Bush) Court and get their way.

    February 24, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  25. Mccain who??

    I'm glad that people are given the chance to see who Mccain realy is.

    Just a couple of days before the last primary he was trying to put pressure on Barack Obama by making him use public funding for his campaign. Now he's trying to back out. I hope this is an eye opener.

    February 24, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
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