Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Obama (with links) & McCain's Petard

When asked to name any of Obama’s accomplishments, many of Obama’s staunchest acolytes are unable to name even one.

But ask John McCain about his campaign funding problems or civil rights activist Alice Palmer about her Illinois Senate campaign in 1997 and they might be able to name some of Obama’s accomplishments – just not one's that reflect well on the would-be Messiah in Chief.


There can’t be a conservative out there, even among those of us who will fully support McCain, that can possibly resist an "I told you so" at the thought of McCain being hoisted on his own petard over campaign financing. Without McCain-Feingold, McCain might well not be in the position he finds himself today. That said, there is a troubling connection with Obama to McCain's problem.

On paper, McCain should easily defeat Obama in the upcoming presidential election. McCain has more than ample grounds to attack the uber-liberal, under-qualified Obama. Our nation is nowhere near as far to the left as Obama's record shows him to be. If McCain loses, it will be due to a combination of so-called "conservatives" in revolt who refuse to support McCain and due to a lack of money to get his message out. McCain needs to be hammering home the anti-Obama message starting as soon as it becomes clear that Obama will be the nominee – which will likely be March 4. But it may well be that McCain is hamstrung by FEC rules and unable to spend any more than just a few million dollars between now and the nominating convention in September. That would be catastrophic.

The questions at issue revolve around public campaign financing during the two phases of the campaign, the primaries and then the general election. A candidate can accept public financing in one, both, or neither. If a candidate opts to accept public financing, it comes with very specific spending limits. If McCain is found to have accepted public financing in the primaries, then his spending limit is $50 million during the primaries – and he is close to that limit already.

How this all came about is, last year, with his campaign in shambles, McCain signed up for public financing during the primaries.. Under the public financing rules, he would not receive any public financing until March. Obviously that would not have worked in this season of early primaries. But the promise of those funds did bear on McCain obtaining a $1 million bank loan in advance of Super Tuesday. In the end, he never even dipped into the loan itself as his fund raising picked up sufficiently.

That notwithstanding, McCain has now notified the FCC that he intends to withdraw from the public financing agreement during the primaries. The rules say that if you dip into the public funds – which McCain hasn’t – or you use public funds as collateral for a loan, than you are obligated to follow the public financing rules.

So, the question is, did McCain use those funds as collateral? That is a legal question, and one has to look to the terms of his loan.

McCain's loan from Fidelity involves what experts termed a highly unusual arrangement: He pledged that if he left the public financing system and started to lose the election, he would reenter it and use the federal funds to repay the loan.

"The loan terms were carefully drafted to exclude from the bank's collateral any matching funds," to assure McCain would have the "flexibility to withdraw from the program," said the letter from lawyers Matthew S. Bergman and Scott E. Thomas. Thomas, a Democrat, is a former FEC chairman.

Only "future certifications of matching funds" were pledged as collateral, the letter says -- and that would have occurred only if McCain had started to lose, which he never did.

See here.

If that sounds like a rather slippery legal maneuver to you, well it does to me also. Objectively, in a court of law, I can see it standing up. But I would also have to grant to my friends on the other side of the aisle that it smells enough that they at least have reasonable grounds to cry foul. However, those grounds may be somewhat limited. Apparently, at least according to those in the McCain camp, this is precisely how Howard Dean went about his withdraw from public financing during the 2004 campaign. I have not been able to verify that claim, but if it is true, than McCain has the benefit of precedent and Democratic complaints to the contrary are not but spin.

Since McCain submitted his notice of intent to withdraw to the FEC, the DNC has filed a complaint with the FEC challenging whether he can do so on these facts. The FEC chairman has taken the position that McCain cannot withdraw from public funding until the FCC has reviewed the loan agreement and voted on the matter. McCain is disputing that, asserting that his letter is all that is required.

Here is the catch-22 and the Obama connection. The FEC can’t vote on the matter. The FEC is authorized to be staffed by six officers, three republicans and three democrats. Their terms are staggered so that one democrat and one republican end their terms at the same time and two new appointees can take their place. The FEC requires a quorum of four officers to be able to make any decisions. Until that happens – which theoretically could be sometime in 2009 – the FEC cannot review McCain’s case. The FEC now has only two officers – and according to the Wall St. Journal, Obama stands at the center of the FEC debacle.

The Illinois Senator is blocking confirmation of one of President Bush's appointees to the FEC, which administers election laws. This has left the agency two commissioners short of the quorum it needs to make decisions -- with the potential for direct harm to Mr. McCain's campaign. As we've been writing, the Arizona Senator took out a controversial $1 million loan that FEC

Chairman David Mason has said might lock him into the public finance system for the primary season. Mr. McCain doesn't want to do that because he'd have to abide by spending limits that would reduce his campaigning this spring and summer. Mr. Mason says the FEC needs to rule on the matter, but without a quorum Mr. McCain is left hanging.

The FEC must also vote to certify that Mr. McCain can receive an estimated $85 million in public funds for the November election. The Republican has already pledged to accept those funds, and the spending limits that go with them, and he is counting on the money to make him competitive against a Democratic nominee. However, no FEC quorum, no public McCain funds in the fall -- and a potentially big advantage for Mr. Obama, who is raising far more in private donations.

The FEC dispute centers on Hans von Spakovsky, a Bush appointee whose two-year recess term ended in December and who has been renominated. Before coming to the FEC, Mr. von Spakovsky was a lawyer in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, where he supported voter-ID laws that Democrats claim will harm black voters but have been vindicated in court. Mr. von Spakovsky's nomination was approved by the Rules Committee in September, but then Mr. Obama intervened with a "hold." . . . .

All of this is the rankest sort of partisan Beltway gamesmanship, all the worse because it is rooted in racial politics. It is precisely what Mr. Obama says he wants to rise above, but apparently that will happen only after he wins the Presidency. Mr. Obama also boasts about his role in crafting last year's lobbying and ethics law, which includes a provision requiring candidates to report "bundled" campaign contributions. The FEC was unable to devise the rules for that provision before it lost its quorum in December. Meanwhile, Mr. Obama is bundling away. . . .

Read the article here. If Obama now scuttles the creation of an FEC quorum - and is aided and abetted by Harry Reid and company, this has the potential to be an outrageous manipulation of our democratic system. But such would not be the first time Mr. Obama was in the middle of such manipulation. Indeed, he earned his seat on the Illinois Senate not by ballot, but by lawyers:

The day after New Year's 1996, operatives for Barack Obama filed into a barren hearing room of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

There they began the tedious process of challenging hundreds of signatures on the nominating petitions of state Sen. Alice Palmer, the longtime progressive activist from the city's South Side. And they kept challenging petitions until every one of Obama's four Democratic primary rivals was forced off the ballot.

Fresh from his work as a civil rights lawyer and head of a voter registration project that expanded access to the ballot box, Obama launched his first campaign for the Illinois Senate saying he wanted to empower disenfranchised citizens.
But in that initial bid for political office, Obama quickly mastered the bare-knuckle arts of Chicago electoral politics. His overwhelming legal onslaught signaled his impatience to gain office, even if that meant elbowing aside an elder stateswoman like Palmer.

A close examination of Obama's first campaign clouds the image he has cultivated throughout his political career: The man now running for president on a message of giving a voice to the voiceless first entered public office not by leveling the playing field, but by clearing it.

Read the entire article. So much for the image of Obama as a community organizer that he carefully recounts in his stump speech.

But this is of course not the only issue of "public funding" between McCain and Obama. Throughout his campaign, beginning in March of last year and as recently as November, Obama "was unequivocal about whether he would agree to take public financing for the general election if his Republican opponent pledged to do the same." Such financing would limit the spending of both campaigns to about $80 million. McCain followed suit in April, responding to and accepting Obama’s pledge. Yet now, Obama’s campaign, which is raising more money than God, is disavowing the pledge.

All of this about Obama speaks to a man who lacks the one thing most needed in a leader – principle. I have written extensively on this topic already. McCain has my vote even though I disagree sharply with him on several things. He has it because he is a man of principle. And it is why I think the cynical and manipulative Obama would make for a disastrous presidency given the challenges our nation will face.

Additional Obama Links of Note:

NYT: Bill Kristol on Obama's Moral Vanity

Powerline: Obama's Massive Con Game

Nashville Examiner: Obama on Obama is Scary Truth

Washington Post: The Obama Delusion

PJM: Focusing on Obama's Foreign Policy.

Tigerhawk: Obama and Anti-Americanism

NYT: Obama's Illinois voting record - where he chose to vote "present" 130 times on contraversial issues.

Washington Times: "President Barack" causing trepidation in our military.

Gateway Pundit: Obama captures the coveted Louis Farrakhan endorsement

Politico: Obamamania verges on obsession.

The Belmont Club: The Rezko Scandal, Auchi and Obama

The Weekly Standard: Never Apologize, Never Explain

WSJ: Obama and the Power of Words

The Weekly Standrd: Obama of the North - Pierre Trudeau

And more links from a blog I highly recommend, Publius Pundit, who ponder which Obama weakness will be most lethal:

Obama is anti-gun.

Obama is pro-illegal immigrant.

Obama is religiously/racially extreme.

Obama is anti-democratic, fomenting a cult of personality. He's been called the "messiah of generation narcissism."

Obama's wife is an anti-American loose cannon.

Obama has no experience and his platform is all image, no substance.

The web is SO over Obama.


Dinah Lord said...

Scott, you devil! I should have known you would cover this and do a better job of it! Ha-ha. Thanks for the heads up. Great post.

IMO Obama shows his true colors in that article about his State Senate run. Which, btw, I had no idea was won by his backroom chicanery...

But the unsparing legal tactics were justified, he said, by obvious flaws in his opponents' signature sheets. "To my mind, we were just abiding by the rules that had been set up," Obama recalled.

"I gave some thought to … should people be on the ballot even if they didn't meet the requirements," he said. "My conclusion was that if you couldn't run a successful petition drive, then that raised questions in terms of how effective a representative you were going to be."

I hear things like this and want to smack Barry into the middle of next week. So much for voting by American citizens, eh Barry?

Question: In the absence of an FEC quorum and if the Dems decide to go to court to press the question of McCain's loan can't McCain also go to court regarding approval to withdraw from the public campaign financing scheme?

Anonymous said...

Hope this link goes in as an active link...if not, I apologize for the length. Still, worth a read. Note that he takes it from a UK article! Those foreigners...doing the work Americans won't do!


Anonymous said...

Darn. Well, try this link - it's the same, but shorter...