Exclusive: Dems Say McCain Broke Own Law

Democratic officials tell Politico that they plan to file a Federal Election Commission complaint on Monday accusing the McCain campaign of being “a serial violator” of campaign finance laws.

In one case, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations was solicited for a donation. But the McCain campaign says that’s because his name was on a list rented from Foreign Affairs magazine.

The Republican National Committee filed two complaints against the Obama campaign over the past two weeks.

The Democratic National Committee complaint is interesting because Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has made campaign finance reform one of his signature issues on Capitol Hill.

DNC General Counsel Joe Sandler said: "The McCain campaign's lack of disclosure and disregard for the law he helped write raises serious questions about John McCain's commitment to the openness and transparency the voters expect from their leaders."

The four-page Democratic complaint charges: “The McCain campaign, already a serial violator of the federal campaign finance laws, including the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 popularly known as the McCain-Feingold law, evidently chosen to ignore some of the most fundamental and basic requirements of that law. … [T]he Commission should find reason to believe that the McCain Campaign has violated the [Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971] and the Commission’s rules, and should conduct a prompt investigation.”

McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said: “This is a joke — a sad publicity stunt to divert attention from the recent controversies surrounding Barack Obama’s shady fundraising practices, and his campaign’s complete refusal to disclose the sources of hundreds of millions of his contributions. It’s ironic that the DNC and Obama campaign would launch a complaint based on information fully disclosed our website — which is completely transparent in disclosing 100 percent of our contributions publicly — while the Obama campaign has refused to do likewise. Obviously all of our fundraising strictly follows all campaign finance regulations, which provide for 60 days to reconcile all contributions.”

On Oct. 6, the RNC filed an FEC complaint accusing the Obama campaign of “acceptance of foreign national and excessive contributions.” On Thursday, the RNC expanded its complaint to “donations from unknown sources, and demonstrated lack of oversight or concern for compliance with the law.”

In a news release to be issued this weekend the DNC elaborated on its accusations: “[A]n analysis of the information provided by the McCain Campaign on its website shows that the campaign received 6,653 contributions that were at least $1,000 in excess of legal limit of $2,300—including one donor who contributed $56,047. The McCain Campaign website also lists 23 anonymous contributions in excess of fifty dollars, despite the legal requirement to maintain the name and address of each contributor any amount in excess of $50, and dozens of additional donors who provided incomplete information.”

The Democrats’ complaint points to a report in Al Kamen’s “In the Loop” column in The Washington Post on Wednesday: “Continuing the pattern of solicitation involving foreign nationals, only a few days ago, it was reported that the McCain Campaign had solicited $5,000 to a joint fundraising committee including the Republican National Committee from the Russian ambassador to the U.N., Vitality I. Churkin.”

A McCain campaign official said the questioned contributions can be explained as follows:

“1. All anonymous contributions over $50 are eventually donated to charity, usually Operation Smile.

“2. We get a ‘request for additional information’ from the FEC every month for every report as every campaign does, and we respond to them by amending our reports and sending the FEC a letter letting them know that.

“3. Many donors go over the limit and we do the following to them 1.) Reattribute the excess to a spouse 2.) Redesignate it to [the campaign’s separate accounting fund] or 3.) Refund the donor. Our internal website is updated only once a month … and does not reflect the changes that go on every day with each donor’s record.

“4. The solicitation to the Russian ambassador was done b/c the direct mail vendor for McCain Palin Victory rented a list from Foreign Affairs magazine and there was no way of knowing from the list rental of his position and the street address line didn’t list Russian Embassy on it.

“5. We refunded donations solicited from a foreign national even though we have no proof the actual donors were foreign nationals, we were going above and beyond to make sure there were no potential issues.”

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