McCain Hoisted by His Own Petard

As Serf City columnist and blogger Bob Armstrong has noted, John McCain’s troubles with the FEC and campaign finance regulations are nothing short of delicious. I rarely get any joy from reading political news, but the irony in this story has me positively giddy.

McCain is squirming to get off the hook from the spending limitations imposed on his campaign when he applied for political welfare (i.e., matching funds). When his campaign was on life support last summer, the welfare seemed like a great idea, but now that donations are streaming in, his campaign is noticing the potentially lethal strings that were attached.

Technically, McCain hasn’t taken any of the matching funds yet, but he did use the promise of them as collateral on a $4 million loan. So it’s a bit late, as the FEC chairman noted, to claim he never benetfited from the welfare and now wants to opt out of the spending restrictions.

The public financing system places a spending limit of $54 million on each participating candidate for the duration of the primary season — which for the Republicans doesn’t end until their convention in September. So far the McCain campaign has already spent $49 million, which means they’ll be running on fumes for the next 6 months unless they get a reprieve. Meanwhile, neither Clinton nor Obama has applied for matching funds, so they can spend to their bleeding hearts’ content.

The best part is the FEC can’t even take a vote to let McCain off the hook, because with only 2 out 6 commissioner slots filled, they lack a quorum. Bush’s other FEC nominees are bottled up in Congress.

What makes this all so delicious, of course, is that McCain’s single greatest claim to fame (aside from being held prisoner by the people whose villages he was destroying from 10,000 feet) is championing anti-free-speech “campaign finance reform” laws.

“I would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected that has become corrupt,” McCain infamously told Don Imus in 2006. “If I had my choice, I’d rather have the clean government.”

McCain is getting what he wanted (and deserves), so he should be happy. He gets “clean government” at the expense of the “quote First Amendment,” while Obama spends the next 6 months taking him to the cleaners.