McCain’s Future Legal Battle: Campaign Finance Violations

Part of being a politician is playing to different constituents. This is almost a necessity when a politician is vying for a national office. One of the problems with this flexible and, in many ways, superficial pandering is that it can hurt your public image– especially if it is showcased in the proper format.

John McCain is known in various circles as the “Maverick” for his independent thinking and values, particularly his hard stance against pork belly spending. His very stance on campaign finances has both helped and hindered his campaign. While many Independents and moderates admire McCain’s efforts to address soft money influence in Washington, many conservatives feel he has overstepped his boundaries. The basis for much of the conservative criticism centers on the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, championed by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI). The bill eliminated soft money from campaigns and banned the use of corporate or union funding to broadcast advertising for candidates 30 days before elections.

Ironically, McCain has come under fire recently for violating Federal Campaign Finance Laws by exceeding the amount of received donations. His campaign posted making $58 million dollars in the last political cycle, a few million dollars above the maximum allowed for a candidate receiving public finances. The media and many bloggers mistakenly link his current violation with his Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which would undoubtedly paint him as a hypocrite. As I already mentioned, the McCain-Feingold bill sought to restrict the types of funding, but did not set up public finance laws. According to the Federal Election Commission, presidential candidates receiving federal campaign funding must follow rules initiated in 1976 (provisions for public financing were first proposed in 1907). However, McCain’s work in public finance reform and his avid support of public finance laws in the state of Arizona suggest a platform that contrasts with his current one. His prior commitment to receive public financing and his current overhaul of accepted donations also places him in a precarious legal position.

At best, McCain should be faulted for not thinking ahead. Traditionally finding it hard to garner enough funding, McCain probably did not expect the surge of donations in February, nor the dramatic financial arsenal from his Democratic contenders. In addition to this, for McCain to lock himself into a restricted public finance budget with months of freedom from a Democratic adversary is strategically foolish and dangerous. However his image, and his legal position, are in jeopardy as the months progress. Peoples’ eyes are currently locked on the Clinton-Obama battle, but this will not last until November. A possible legal battle from groups such as FireDogLake can.