- The Washington Times - Friday, February 29, 2008

Mike Huckabee said yesterday he is 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. “Not only do we not have the delegates all in place for him, but there is a question whether his campaign is even going to be active between now and September.”

Mr. Huckabee is far behind Mr. McCain in the number of delegates needed to win the Republican nomination, but said he is holding out hope the nomination gets decided at the convention.

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 into the matching funds system,” he said.

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 he is already approaching. He essentially would have to shut down his campaign until after the nominating convention in September.

Mr. Huckabee, who has not applied for public funds, would have no such restriction, which could make him a more attractive candidate to Republicans because he could compete.

The Democratic National Committee has filed a challenge over Mr. McCain’s withdrawal attempt, and the FEC chairman has said he wants more information about 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 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, and officials from the bank that offered the loan have said it wasn’t secured by the pledge of federal funds.

Mr. McCain obtained an initial loan, then increased the amount a month later. The DNC contends his campaign used the public funding to obtain the higher line of credit, but Mr. McCain’s campaign lawyer, Trevor Potter, told reporters this week the bank was actually swayed by an improvement in Mr. McCain’s cash flow.

“The difference between the $3 million they were willing to grant us in November and granting us the additional million in December was that we could show them our fundraising was better, and we therefore could carry the interest debt on it, and that there was no less likelihood of paying off $4 million than $3 million,” Mr. Potter said.

But that doesn’t jibe with FEC records. In the period from Oct. 1 to the date of the first loan, Mr. McCain’s fundraising averaged $51,405 a day. But in the period between the first and second loans that actually dropped to $48,680 a day.

Mr. Huckabee said Mr. McCain, as the chief author of the current campaign finance system, is a victim of his own making.

“It may very well be that the law he pushed comes back to bite him,” the former Arkansas governor said.

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