Feds Taking Closer Look at McCain Loan

Could lock him into matching funds— and $54M limit
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 21, 2008 12:32 PM CST
Republican presidential hopeful, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., accompanied by his wife Cindy, speaks at a news conference in Toledo, Ohio. Thursday, Feb. 21, 2008. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Today just isn’t John McCain’s day. The Federal Elections Commission says it may not allow the presumptive Republican nominee to drop out of the federal matching funds program, because he used it as collateral for a $4 million loan he took out to fund his cash-strapped primary campaign in December. If the FEC doesn't allow him to opt out, McCain will be restricted to spending just $54 million through August.

Federal law says using matching funds as collateral locks a candidate into the system; McCain tried to hedge by promising the bank he’d commit to the system only if he lost the primary—if he won, he’d forsake matching funds and repay with the tide of money he’d get. The FEC thinks that's cutting things too fine, and wants to investigate. “It was done before in another campaign,” McCain said today. “We think it’s perfectly legal.” The FEC, meanwhile, can't act until the Senate appoints two new commissioners.