The Lonely Centrist

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Frankenstein's Monster Turns on Its Creator: Senator McCain is Attacked by Stupid Campaign Finance Laws

Poor John McCain. Here's the latest in a difficult week for the Senator: the New York Times is reporting that he may have made illegal campaign fundraising calls from the Senate cloakroom.

As the Times reports:
About 3 p.m. Tuesday, Senator John McCain ducked off the Senate floor, entered the Republican cloakroom and took out his mobile phone. Just hours after accepting the resignation of his two top campaign aides, he was making a conference call to his top fund-raisers to urge them to keep up the fight.

The call, however, may only have exacerbated an already tough week for Mr. McCain. Senate ethics rules expressly forbid lawmakers to engage in campaign activities inside Senate facilities. If Mr. McCain solicited campaign contributions on a call from government property, that would be a violation of federal criminal law as well

It couldn't happen to a nicer guy, but still, we feel some sympathy for the straight talkin' Senator. How dumb is all this?
Matt David, a spokesman for the McCain campaign, ... said Mr. McCain used his campaign cellphone and did not specifically ask the fund-raisers for campaign contributions, which would have been a crime.

It gets worse:
Whether a conference call with fund-raisers could constitute a solicitation of campaign contributions and thus violate the criminal law as well as the internal Senate ethics rules can depends on the details of the call, several legal experts said.

“If it is a solicitation, it is illegal,” said Lawrence Noble, a nonpartisan expert on political law in Washington.

Marc Elias, a Democratic campaign lawyer, said, “It is going to depend on the precise words that were used on the call,” noting that courts might consider an exhortation to pump up his fund-raisers a solicitation, depending on the context. (Mr. David insisted there was no form of solicitation on the call.)

It's going to depend on the precise words of the call? Context? An exhortation? Used his campaign cell phone? Did not "specifically ask" for contributions? How is someone supposed to comply with such rules? The answer is, they're not. They are supposed to stop raising funds.

How absurd is our system. Of course, at the end of the day, I wonder if anyone believes that this makes Senator McCain more corrupt? Maybe this will wake up Senator McCain to some of the damage that he has done with his "reform" crusade - but then, his days as a serious policy maker seem to be coming to an end, so it may not matter.

Meanwhile, this story in the gossipy Politico discusses something the Centerman has blogged on long ago - the relationship of Senator McCain with the "Reform Institute." The cruelest cut: The Politico Headline calls Senator McCain an "ex-reformer."

How absurd this all is. Senator McCain is being treated unfairly, to be sure (yes, let's go to a couple of Democratic lawyers for commentary - that's fair!), but what goes around sometimes comes around. Live by "reform," die by "reform."

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