A group of Democrats filed a complaint Wednesday accusing Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) of violating the very campaign finance law that he worked so hard to pass.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is alleging that two television ads for Arizona Republican congressional nominees Ruth McClung and Jesse Kelly represent in-kind donations over the legal $4800 limit, according to The Washington Post.
McClung is facing Rep. Raul Grijalva in Arizona’s 7th District and Kelly is challenging Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the 8th District.
“The ad buys cost $80,000 each, and with production costs, that brings McCain to $91,872 spent on behalf of McClung and Kelly,” wrote Congressional Quarterly‘s Tricia Miller.
The DCCC claims that McCain must have coordinated with the campaigns because he recently spent time at both candidates’ rallies. The letter says that if McCain did not coordinate with the campaigns then he should have filed papers for an independent expenditure.
“The fact that Jesse Kelly, Ruth McClung and John McCain have coordinated campaign efforts is indisputable,” wrote DCCC spokeswoman Jennifer Crider in a statement. “By Jesse Kelly and Ruth McClung’s own accounts, they have met with Senator John McCain, they all shared the stage at a unity rally in August, and they are all coordinating with the Arizona Republican party.”
“Senator McCain either doesn’t understand the law bearing his name, or he has deliberately chosen to break it,” said the statement.
The McCain campaign denied the allegations, saying they filed “independent expenditure” reports to the Senate this week. Under the McCain-Feingold campaign finance laws passed in 2001, independent expenditures are not treated as campaign contributions.
“It’s not surprising that Democrats would try to change the subject from their struggling ticket with a baseless, frivolous complaint intended as a publicity stunt,” communications director for Friends of John McCain Brian Rogers wrote in an email. “Sen. McCain has always followed the letter and the spirit of the campaign finance law.”
In a statement, Rogers wrote, “The DCCC is grasping at straws and misstating the law in a desperate attempt to assist their weak candidates. ‘Coordination’ has a very specific legal meaning under the FEC regulations, and involves sharing campaign strategy and plans — not just appearing on the same stage, but that is the nonsense the Democrats are selling. The fact is that the FEC put in place specific coordination rules and the McCain campaign is carefully following them. The advertisements are fully disclosed, and paid for with Sen. McCain’s federal campaign funds, as required by law.”
“We expect and welcome more flailing attacks from the DCCC — they serve only to spotlight Rep. Grijalva’s calls for a boycott of his own state and Rep. Giffords’ votes for the failed Pelosi-Obama agenda. So keep it coming,” Rogers said.
“The DCCC’s allegations are part of a broader effort by Democrats to portray McCain as a political opportunist who has turned his back on his record as a moderate Republican,” noted The Post.