- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A watchdog group filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission on Monday questioning presumptive Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain’s ties to lobbyists.

Public Campaign Action Fund, a D.C.-based nonprofit group, cited the write-off of campaign debts owed to 3eDC, a Web services company co-owned by McCain campaign manager Rick Davis.

The complaint also questioned whether a lobbying firm run by former Texas Congressman Thomas G. Loeffler - who recently resigned as finance chairman for Mr. McCain’s campaign because of his firm’s lobbying activities - paid McCain finance director Susan Nelson for her work on the McCain campaign.

David Donnelly, director of the watchdog group’s Campaign Money Watch project, said such an arrangement, if true, would constitute an illegal corporate campaign contribution. Ms. Nelson previously worked at Mr. Loeffler’s lobbying firm, the Loeffler Group in San Antonio.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) on Monday said Campaign Money Watch has “no credibility” because its donors included several Democratic-leaning people, including billionaire George Soros. The RNC also called the group “a partisan organization that routinely attacks Republicans” and “their baseless and unfounded attacks should be completely disregarded.”

The Public Campaign Action Fund, which supports public financing of campaigns, also announced plans to run ads in the Washington area on broadcast and cable outlets questioning whether Mr. McCain intervened to award a big Air Force contract to Airbus over Boeing earlier this year.

The ad notes that seven people involved with the McCain campaign as fundraisers or staff members lobbied for Airbus, which is headquartered in France.

Mr. McCain has defended backing the Air Force after it gave a refueling tanker contract to Airbus over Boeing. Another watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, has supported Mr. McCain’s position on the Boeing-Airbus dispute, saying the Airbus contract appeared to be fairly awarded and helped save hundreds of millions of dollars.

Mr. Donnelly declined to say how much the group will spend on the ads. But he said the group might expand the ads to other markets across the country.

“He used to support the kind of work we advocate,” Mr. Donnelly said of Mr. McCain, co-author of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law.

Congress created the FEC in 1975 to administer and enforce the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), the statute that governs the financing of federal elections. It discloses campaign finance information, enforces the provisions of the law such as the limits and prohibitions on contributions, and oversees the public funding of presidential elections.

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