In the wake of record-breaking fundraising totals by Senator Obama, today’s Politico has a very curious story. It begins:
With the Republican presidential nomination within reach, John McCain is reshaping his campaign to press on without public financing that could limit his spring spending, senior advisers say.
The Arizona senator’s rejection of the presidential public financing program he once defended is just the latest evidence of how ineffective the post-Watergate reform has become in an era of multimillion-dollar candidacies.
Under the public financing program, McCain could spend only about $54 million on all the primaries and caucuses — a sum Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton had spent before the first voters caucused in Iowa on Jan. 3.
Fair enough. But check out the ending:
To be sure, there may be some legal hiccups before McCain’s campaign can surge forward unfettered.
During the bleak days of August, McCain announced he would participate in the program. He has been certified by the FEC as eligible for matching money and has taken out a loan based on that assurance.
But so far he hasn’t received a penny of public money, since the FEC’s primary account is as broke as McCain’s August war chest.
Any challenge would put the issue on the table of the FEC, which isn’t meeting these days because of a congressional fight over appointees.
But even if the commission were meeting, one must wonder if the panel — an organization that decided the cost of field organizers doesn’t need to be added to the overall cost of winning a state primary — would tell the Republican Party that its nominee can’t slip through a newly carved loophole and arm himself for battle against a significantly better funded and unrestricted Democratic nominee.
I knew Senator McCain had considered taking public funds — but I didn’t know he had “announced he would participate in the program,” or that having done so, he might not be able to get out.
If he is locked into that scenario, Republicans lose. It’s just that simple.