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. Marcie

    So THIS is why McCain has been obsessively asking Obama to commit to public financing!

    February 24, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  2. Brian.

    Is it just me or does Howard Dean look like Leslie Nielsen?

    February 24, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  3. DR

    Another sour grapes, failed Dem who needs to keep his mouth shut, even if he is the DNC chairman (for some inexplicable reason).

    February 24, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  4. Will

    John McCain, the Campaign Finance Reform Champion, is demonstrably violating the campaign finance system. HOW IS THIS NOT PROMINENT NEWS ON THIS SITE?

    February 24, 2008 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  5. earl illingsworth

    TOO WORDS _ Poor Johnny


    February 24, 2008 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  6. Daniel

    If indeed McCain used the promise of the FEC money to acquire the loan, then he should definitely stay within the rules set by the FEC and not be allowed out of the program. However, if the FEC is willing to let him off the hook then so be it.

    Daniel, CO

    February 24, 2008 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  7. Bye Partisan

    Get em Dean!!!!! About time the DNC has done sometthing more than talk about super delegates. McCain traded his values for a loan and a New Hampshire win.

    February 24, 2008 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  8. Jan

    Is this true?

    February 24, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  9. Jan

    This is just wayyy tooo good to be true. It's like Democratic Christmas in February/March.

    February 24, 2008 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  10. L. Parker

    Seems like the road to 'transparency' in Washington will have a few nails and tacks in it 'my friends'.

    February 24, 2008 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  11. Puddytat

    I don't knoe why he should be able to get away with it ... wasn't a cap his own idea ??

    I will never support him as president.

    I think the reason the media supports him is because they want OMAMA and Hillary to WAX HIS butt . THAT'S one way to get the REPs out and be done with them .

    February 24, 2008 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  12. james

    McCain flip flops on everything. Type Mccain flip flop on youtube.com and see so may news video on Mr. straight talker.

    February 24, 2008 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  13. ED FL

    John will soon be standing on the corner with a cup to satisfy his warmongering expenses. John go home to your favorite old folks home while you can still spell BINGO.

    February 24, 2008 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  14. McCain X Supporter

    I used to like him, but i can't stand him now. He's more scandilous than HRC. I'm gonna vote Obama in Nov.

    February 24, 2008 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  15. Independent for Obama

    Senator John McCain says one thing and does another...

    He wants to eat out of both sides of his mouth.

    February 24, 2008 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  16. james

    This isn't about Hillary or Obama, it's about throwing away the sickening politics Republicans have brought to this country. No one represents the business as usual more than McCain. Obama/Hillary 2008!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (this combination of character and experience can't lose)

    February 24, 2008 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  17. Dave, Atlanta, GA

    Yeah, I think it's an attempt to bend the rules. When McCain's campaign was broke, he was all for public financing, and now since he doesn't have money troubles any more, he suddenly wants to opt out. Sounds fishy.

    February 24, 2008 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  18. Darryl of Lemon Grove


    February 24, 2008 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  19. independent for obama

    HAHAHAHAHAHA should have kept your mouth shut about the campagn financing McCain! Now your rediculous criticism is coming back to bite you right in the rear end. Candidates should just mind their own business' when it come to other candidates funding. I am completely against public financing because I think that the American people should get to put their money where their mouths are when it comes to their politics. It gives the people more power to promote the one they want to win. While I am going to vote for Obama, I think he made a mistake in pledging to accept public financing. Hey, everyone's human. But I believe now Obama is in a position where HE HAS NO MORAL RIGHT to send back the dollars of those who wish to support him. I am sure every person Obama recieved money from will feel let down if he sells out to McCain's demand. He should stick it right back to him. I am glad Howard Dean stuck it to McCain. Screw the souless GOP. DOWN WITH THEM!!!!!! Do whatever it takes to bring them down....BE RUTHLESS!!!! Obama '08

    February 24, 2008 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  20. Scott

    lets face it, unless or until everyone is put under the federal funding system, it will never be the America born in 1776.
    money is the only thing that wins the presidency, and many, and i do mean many better qualified people are left out because they cant be bought like the filthy rich people can.
    and one last point, at more than 200 million dollars each party will spend to get the job, how can we the ordinary American ever hope for representation.
    it wont happen, money buys access, we the voter cant elect a person who will talk to us unless we donate at 10,000 dollar a plate for a photo op.

    February 24, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  21. Democracy needs Third parties

    Maybe Dean is hypocrit but, normally, law is law.

    By the way, $54 millions JUST for a primary, it's a ver big waste of money.

    And, in an implicit way, a deny of democracy.

    Democracy is about choices. But American Elections are quite about power.

    That's sad

    February 24, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  22. fair tax in la.


    February 24, 2008 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  23. king

    we all know mc cain ic full of it.this is the guy they say can beat obama.lol.bring it on.

    February 24, 2008 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  24. SAM

    McCain has proven to be another dissapointing politician from Washington! We are just tired of the old dirty politics.. and playing double standards. We want a new kind of politics and Hope for the future of America. Tackle him down Dean!

    February 24, 2008 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  25. Ruthie

    Do as I say, not as I do? Do we want a president that cannot follow his own rules? Does this sound familiar?


    MCcain-=war=death=destruction=oppression=loss of freedom

    February 24, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
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