WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Democratic Party on Monday filed a lawsuit against the Federal Elections Commission seeking to force the group to investigate whether John McCain has violated federal spending limits for his primary campaign.
The lawsuit, which was filed in the United States District Court in Washington, is the latest move by the Democratic National Committee that seeks to prove the Arizona senator locked himself into campaign spending limits earlier this year when he used the prospect of $6 million in federal matching funds as collateral for a December bank loan to his campaign.
The DNC first filed a complaint with the FEC in February, arguing then that McCain should be forced to accept the matching funds - and the spending limits that come with it.
DNC Chairman Howard Dean said that McCain not only used the prospect of the funds as loan collateral, but he also accepted automatic ballot access in every state - an advantage given to those who accept federal matching funds. (Those who do not accept federal matching funds are forced to gain ballot access themselves - a task that can cost millions of dollars.)
(CNN)— Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said Thursday he feared his party's nominee facing Mitt Romney in the general election more than any other candidate.
“Frankly, Mitt Romney was the candidate I feared the most in the general because he’s got plenty of money, he’s wealthy,” Dean told reporters at a committee briefing. “He’s very articulate and he willing to say practically anything, and Republican voters want discipline.”
When asked if he'd fear a McCain-Romney ticket, Dean said the former Massachussetts governor was the best candidate the Republicans were probably “ever going to get.”
Romney dropped out of the presidential race last February saying that if he continued his campaign it would "forestall the launch of a national campaign…making it easier for Senator Clinton or Obama to win." His departure from the race essentially secured John McCain’s place as the presumptive Republican nominee.
Dean also characterized McCain, as a “weak candidate,” one who is very out of touch with “21st century Americans” on issues like the economy, Iraq War, and health care. He added that McCain has no plans to get out of Iraq or solve the mortgage crisis.
(UPDATED with RNC response after the jump)
(CNN)— Hillary Clinton’s lead in Pennsylvania is beginning to narrow with less than three weeks to go before the state’s crucial April 22 primary. In the latest installment of CNN=Politics Daily, Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley reports on the candidates push for union support.
John McCain’s on the receiving end of fresh criticism that he’s dividing the Republican Party. CNN’s Dana Bash reports on the presumptive Republican nominee’s response and who may be on his list of potential Vice Presidential candidates.
Wednesday on Capitol Hill, Fed Chief Ben Bernanke suggested more Americans may be at risk of losing their jobs. Alan Chernoff explains where the economy could be headed next.
Finally, the debate over whether to seat Michigan and Florida’s delegates continues. Today, after meeting with a group of Florida’s Democratic leaders, national party Chairman Howard Dean said he’s committed to seating Florida’s delegation at the August convention. Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider has the latest details.
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–CNN’s Emily Sherman
(CNN)—Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said Tuesday a razor-thin margin of victory will not hurt the party’s unity so long as the elections are fair.
“One candidate is going to win with 50.2 percent of the votes and another candidate is going to lose by 49.8 percent of the votes,” Dean said. “I want to make sure that the candidate who doesn’t win this nomination feels they’ve been treated fairly according to the rules.”
Dean stressed again that he would like to see the race resolved by July 1—weeks before the party’s August convention.
Watch the entire interview today during the 4 p.m. hour of The Situation Room.
–CNN’s Emily Sherman
(CNN) - The Republican National Committee called on both Democratic presidential candidates Friday to denounce recent comments from Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean who called John McCain a 'blatant opportunist.'
Dean made the comment earlier in the day in a statement issued by the DNC on McCain's new television ad that features footage of the Arizona Republican as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
"While we honor McCain’s military service, the fact is Americans want a real leader who offers real solutions, not a blatant opportunist who doesn’t understand the economy and is promising to keep our troops in Iraq for 100 years," Dean said.
RNC Deputy Chairman Frank Donatelli called the comment a "character smear," and said they are the "latest in what has become a troubling pattern where the chairman of the national party has questioned Senator McCain’s character and integrity."
"Howard Dean owes John McCain an immediate apology and both Senators Clinton and Obama should unequivocally denounce this disgraceful attack," Donatelli added.
Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama are battling for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Responding to Donatelli's comments, DNC spokeswoman Karen Finney said the RNC is "cherry picking the facts."
"Clearly the RNC recognizes that the biggest threat to John McCain, as we heard loud and clear from voters in our recent focus groups, is the damage he inflicted on his 'independent' image and reputation for 'straight talk' by shifting his positions to make them more acceptable to the right wing of the Republican Party," she said.
"The truth is that most Americans would likely agree that while we honor Senator McCain's service, America cannot afford another Bush Republican who doesn't understand the economy and who wants to keep our troops in Iraq for up to 100 years," she added.
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
(CNN) - Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean told CNN Friday his party's system for choosing presidential candidates is "not a mess," despite the maze of complexities exposed by the close, bitter battle between Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
He also gave his clearest indication to date that he would like the fight wrapped up before the official nominating convention in August - as well as a guide on how to end it.
He said the undecided superdelegates - party officials who can choose whom to back - should weigh in once the voters have had their say.
"I'd like the other 350 (superdelegates) to say who they're for at some point between now and the first of July so we don't have to take this into the convention," he said on "The Early Show" on CBS. He made similar remarks on ABC.
Dean told CNN he's convinced the delegates from Florida and Michigan, who are currently not being counted, will ultimately be seated at the convention.
And he told CNN that party leadership has had "extensive discussions" with the Clinton and Obama campaigns to cool down their rhetoric.
"I don't think the party is going to implode," he said when asked about that possibility.
(Udpates with Dean's comments on Superdelegates)
- CNN's Josh Levs
(CNN)— Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean characterized the presidential primary season as a “pleasant walk in the park” Tuesday, saying the real battle for the presidency will happen when the nominees are chosen.
In an interview with Wolf Blitzer, Dean also expressed fear of a divided party if a Democratic nominee is not chosen by the August convention, saying both candidates are well qualified to be the next president, making a tougher decision for voters. However, Dean said, “There’s no reason not to have a clear nominee before the convention starts,” because the convention is scheduled later this presidential cycle to adhere to public finance rules.
The Democratic convention is schedule to begin August 25 in Denver, Colorado. Pennsylvania’s April 22 primary is one of the last critical primaries for the Democratic candidates before the convention.
–CNN's Emily Sherman
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean stepped up his verbal assault on Republican presidential front-runner John McCain on Sunday, questioning the Arizona senator's integrity.
"Here's a guy who's a typical situational ethicist. He runs on his integrity, but he doesn't seem to have any," Dean told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer."
The Democratic chairman has spent a week pounding McCain - one of the architects of 2001's McCain-Feingold campaign finance law - over his attempt to opt out of public financing for his Republican primary campaign. In a complaint to the Federal Election Commission last week, Dean accused McCain of using the promise of federal funds to obtain a bank loan and automatic ballot access for his presidential bid while dodging federal spending limits.
"John McCain has a history of doing what it takes, regardless of what the ethics of this are," Dean said. "I think he's going to be a flawed candidate."
There was no immediate response to Dean's broadside from McCain's campaign.
The FEC has asked McCain's campaign to explain the terms of his loan, but the agency won't be able to resolve the matter until four vacancies on the six-member commission are filled. The campaign has said it acted legally, and did nothing more than what the Dean's 2004 presidential campaign did in rejecting public funding - an argument Dean says isn't true.
Dean said McCain "has a problem with personal integrity," citing his onetime ties to jailed savings-and-loan executive Charles Keating and his refusal to reject the support of televangelist John Hagee. The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights has criticized McCain for accepting the endorsement of Hagee, who has called the Roman Catholic Church "the Great Whore" and a "cult."
Updated 6:11 p.m. with response from the McCain campaign: "John McCain is a man of integrity who will run on his record. Senators Clinton and Obama should denounce this desperate, personal smear campaign Howard Dean and the leaders of their party seem intent on running," the McCain campaign said in a statement to CNN.
–CNN's Jessica Rummel
(CNN)— The Democratic National Committee on Tuesday pressed its formal complaint with federal election officials contesting Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain's effort to withdraw his intention to ask for public election funding.
“John McCain is posing as a reformer,” DNC Chairman Howard Dean told CNN’s John Roberts. “It turns out reform, as far as he's concerned, is good for everybody but him.”
The Democratic Party filed an official complaint against McCain Monday with the Federal Election Commission calling on them to investigate the Senators decision earlier this month to withdraw from the primary election’s public financing system.
According to FEC regulations, written exclusion is required before withdrawal from the matching funds program, but the McCain campaign argues they did not need written permission citing Dean’s 2003 Democratic campaign as an example.
In the statement released Tuesday the DNC highlights a significant difference between now and 2003 is not only Dean's prior permission from the FEC before withdrawing, but McCain’s use of the potential financing to get on the ballot free of charge in some states as a bank loan.
The McCain campaign flatly rejects that assertion.
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.