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McCain's 'On-the-Side' Fundraising Rises to $150M

During last night’s debate, John McCain attacked Barack

Obama for abandoning his pledge to accept public funding for the general

election if his opponent did so. While we wish Obama had opted in to the public

system, it’s also worth noting that McCain left out a few inconvenient truths

about his on-the-side fundraising.

When McCain accepted an $85 million public funding grant, he agreed to stop

raising money except for modest amounts to pay for book-keeping. But McCain

kept raising big money. The only difference was that he focused his effort

entirely on raising checks for special "joint fundraising

committees," which funnel most of the money they receive to the Republican

Party. Lax campaign finance rules are allowing McCain to rake in contributions

of up to $67,800 for these committees (slightly down from $70,100 while his

official committee was still in business). That’s nearly 30 times the

maximum that Obama’s campaign committee can receive.

Last night, about the same time McCain attacked Obama for his fundraising, 10 of

the Arizona senator’s joint committees reported that they have raised $87 million since the beginning of July, bringing their total to $150 million.

McCain’s methods are technically legal, and indeed Obama has mimicked them by

setting up a committee in his name to raise money for the Democratic Party. But

aside from circumventing the public funding agreement, they defeat the overall

campaign finance system’s goal of prohibiting large contributions directly to

politicians. The system permits larger contributions to party committees to

facilitate party building. But by personally raising money for these committees

so close to an election, McCain and Obama have erased the line separating party

and candidate.