Donors use McCain law loophole
Still, the RNC is raking in far more in cash compared with the Democratic National Committee. Last month, the RNC raised about $20 million compared with $4.8 million for the DNC. The RNC also reported more than $3 million in donations through the McCain joint fundraising efforts.
“We will have enough resources to get our message out in the fall,” RNC Chairman Mike Duncan said. “We’ve been able to bring different factions together. We have nearly 700,000 individual donors, and there’s a lot of excitement. We were able to raise $20 million in April.”
The DNC recently signed deals with Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton for a joint fundraising initiative called the Democratic White House Victory Fund.
Republican campaign-finance lawyer Jan Baran, former general counsel to the RNC, said joint fundraising will be crucial for Mr. McCain.
“The McCain campaign, like any Republican campaign, will put a lot of effort into fundraising for the Republican Party through the RNC, and the RNC has a history of outraising the DNC. So that’s the source of funding that will balance the disparity,” Mr. Baran said.
Though joint fundraising is nothing new, the role of outside money has come under sharp scrutiny during the presidential campaign.
Mr. Obama has refused to take money from federal lobbyists or political action committees, though independent PACs have spent more than $11 million on his behalf, far more than for any other candidate. Obama campaign officials said they have no control over those expenditures and have asked these groups to halt the practice.
The McCain campaign has run ads calling the Arizona Republican an “American reformer,” and has touted his record of “standing up to corrupting special interests.”
Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, said talk on the campaign trail about special interests may put the joint fundraising activities under extra scrutiny.
“When you put yourself out there as a defender of ethics and transparency, you’re going to be held to higher standards,” Ms. Krumholz said. “These are huge sums of money.”
She said the situation was more troublesome in 2004, “when it could be hundreds of millions of dollars … in soft money.”
During the 2004 presidential campaign, groups such as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and America Coming Together accepted unlimited contributions and spent tens of millions of dollars. Years later, both groups paid huge fines to the FEC to settle charges of violating campaign-finance laws.
Nearly half of the money from the McCain Victory fund will go to Republican groups in the battleground states of Wisconsin, Colorado, New Mexico and Minnesota. A portion also will go to the McCain campaign’s general election compliance fund, a special account to pay legal and accounting costs.
Such accounts generally are set up when candidates accept public financing. Mr. McCain’s compliance fund has taken in more than $2 million.
Campaign-finance analyst Jay Mandle, professor of economics at Colgate University, said Mr. Obama is unlikely to take public financing in the general election, despite a pledge to do so if his Republican opponent accepts public money.