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

Dean says McCain skirts election law with campaign loan

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/02/24/art.dean.ap.jpg caption="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. E. Phillips

    Senator Clinton is trying to bring down Senator Obama to her level. I only hope he does not take the bait and lower his standards by falling into a trap, He should not take part in another debate which does not have any new topics.

    Good Luck Senator Obama in Texas and Ohio and all the remaining States for the Primary.

    February 24, 2008 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  2. carol

    HOWARD DEAN who gives a S. what you say, you have made a mess of this primary with your stupid rules. I live in Fl and I have already changed to Republican. I would never vote for such a weak, know nothing Obama. I don't think you will be winning Fl. in November, you don't take peoples votes away and expect them to vote for you later, won't happen. Oh how the Democrats have changed, in 2000 you all were begging for our votes to count. What has changed because there is a black candidate and if any one says anything it is being racist BULL S. Sick and tired of hearing the race card.

    February 24, 2008 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  3. Belle

    Obama certainly seems to be doing things differently, all right?

    Me thinks he speaks from both sides of his face....but I guess it is a whole lot easily to speak about doing things differently than ACTUALLY doing things differently.

    I often have found those that accuse...as Mr. Obama has of Mrs. Clinton, are usually the worst perpetrators. McCain has my vote over Obama.

    February 24, 2008 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  4. Belle

    Mr. DEAN is ONLY trying to force McCain....because OBAMA ALREADY renigged on his written pledge.

    February 24, 2008 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  5. TheLeftNut

    McCain's hypocrisy is breathtaking!

    February 24, 2008 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  6. Indiana Bob

    I thought McCain was the guru of campaign finance reform. I guess it is ok to skirt the law if you want to act like a pre-schooler and say "Well Dean did it too. Waaaaa!! Sniff! Sniff!"

    February 24, 2008 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  7. D

    Mr. Ethics will do the right thing and as he tries to get Obama to CHANGE his promise he made before all the money came rollin.
    No one imagined including Senator Obama could pull that many Benjamins a month.

    February 24, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  8. Lucas, Nashville TN


    Land a good hard political punch on his hypocritical chin. He's been a two-faced spineless windbag for some time. Good thing someone's calling him on it.

    February 24, 2008 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  9. John - Spokane, WA

    While he's at it, maybe Dean could talk to the Federal Elections commitee on how he's deprived the voters of Michigan & Florida their Conctitutional rights ? It was the party that broke the rules – not the voters !!

    February 24, 2008 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  10. Bill, Covington,LA

    All one has to do is recall the stupid ear shettering "Dean Screem" and that should be sufficient to remind you that he is a loose cannon off his meds. Mirabile dictu that he is still roaming free.

    February 24, 2008 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  11. Prof Michael Peterson

    Even though I was a previous supporter of John McCain, I feel betrayed to a degree. The cummulative effect of this campaign finance concern and lobbyists influence isues lead me to believe that one our priortiies should be an elimination of career politicians. I don't think McCain would then have these issues to cast a cloud over his career. I know that says a lot in just a few words, but for the political agenda to be more reflective of the "peoples" agenda I can see no other way.

    February 24, 2008 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  12. mel

    McCain is the ghost of Christmas Past instead of running for president he should be auditioning for grumpier old men #5

    February 24, 2008 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  13. kathleen, illinois

    And the "Rule" that Dean and his Party made was
    upfront to Hillary and Obama that the Fla. and Mich.
    votes will not bring in Delegates. And now they just
    can' t seem to have an "UP or Down" decision on this.
    The honest and fair answer is quite clear. Is it that if
    you make a decision on this, you could lose a friend
    or two. This act of no decision is spineless and I suppose
    typical of the Democrat Partys standard of practice. I
    blame Nancy Polosi for this too. Primaries in MIchigan
    or Florida!!!!You all should have thought of that when
    you were dreaming up the game rules. The problem
    has been, that your voters have had to listen to Hillary's
    bull for weeks now. Don't you think that you owe your
    voters a decision-well, weeks ago. We are sick, sick,
    sick of all politics.
    I will vote for the only honest one of you all. Obama-EDwards 2008

    February 24, 2008 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  14. aware

    Mr. Dean you have absolutely no credibility! Vote for anyone but bama baby and his instant gratification mantra. 🙁

    February 24, 2008 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
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