- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 28, 2008

Mike Huckabee said today he’s staying in the Republican presidential race because Sen. John McCain might have run afoul of the Federal Election Commission and be unable to campaign for much of the rest of this year.

“One reason I felt like it was necessary to stay in this race is it hasn’t all been determined,” Mr. Huckabee told reporters this morning. “Not only did we not have the delegates all in place for him, but there is a question whether his campaign is going to even be active from now until September.”

He said that he “won’t even pretend” to know whether Mr. McCain has violated the FEC rules in trying to withdraw from the public financing system but that Mr. McCain, an Arizona senator, would be a victim of his own making.

“He wrote these laws,” the former Arkansas governor said, adding they were “one of the worst things to happen to American politics.”

“It may very well be that the law he pushed comes back to bite him.”

At issue is Mr. McCain’s request last summer to take part in the federal matching funds program for the primary election and his request earlier this month to withdraw from it.

If forced to remain in the public financing system, Mr. McCain would be tied to strict spending limits that he is already approaching. He would essentially have to shut his campaign down until after the nominating convention in September, which could make Mr. Huckabee a more attractive general election candidate.

Mr. Huckabee, who has not applied for public funds, would have no such restriction.

Brian Rogers, a McCain campaign spokesman, said there is no problem and called Mr. Huckabee’s statements over the dangers to the campaign “wildly inaccurate.”

“Everything the campaign has done is completely ethical, legal and proper and John McCain is not locked in to the matching funds system,” he said.

The Democratic National Committee has filed a challenge, and the FEC chairman has said he wants more information on whether Mr. McCain has already received anything of value from his participation in the program. That could include securing a bank loan on the promise of government funds or, the DNC says, it could also include securing a place on the ballots in some states without having to gather signatures.

The McCain campaign has asserted a constitutional right to withdraw from the system. Officials from both the bank that offered the loan and from the campaign have said the loan wasn’t secured by the pledge of federal funds, and the campaign says the state ballot issue is a matter for those states, not the FEC.

Complicating Mr. McCain’s path is the fact that the FEC can’t muster a quorum and can’t rule on his case. Mr. McCain says that’s not needed and that he can withdraw unilaterally, but former FEC commissioners say that is not a settled question.

Mr. Huckabee trails Mr. McCain badly in the delegates needed to secure the presidential nomination but says as long as no candidate has won 1,191 delegates the number needed to win the nomination he will remain in the race to give voters a choice.

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