Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21 gives a statement to Marc Ambinder blasting the position McCain is taking with regard to opting out of the public financing system:
The shut down of the Federal Election Commission has taken center stage because there is no functioning agency to deal with the issue of whether bank loans taken out by Senator John McCain (R-AZ), and the collateral provided for those bank loans, means that Senator McCain cannot withdraw from the presidential primary public financing system and is bound by its spending limits for the rest of his primary campaign.
That’s not a "punt," that’s a clear determination. Democracy 21 says McCain has to abide by the spending limits set by the public financing system, which he is has probably already exceeded. Which means by law, it is their opinion that McCain should be dead in the water and unable to spend any more money until the general. (Ambinder missed this the first time around, but to his credit caught it and corrected it.)
All of McCain’s fancy footwork in his loan application that offered up public financing money as collateral without actually offering it up is highly dubious. Wertheimer is saying that unless the FEC can rule on it, McCain is stuck. (For more on this, see Mark Schmidt’s explanation.)
Wertheimer also says that the legal issues involved are complicated (very true) and that there is a strong need for the FEC to be reconstituted such that they can rule on things like this. He also pushes back against the disingenuous spin of people like George Will that it is the hold put on Von Spakovsky’s nomination by Obama, Feingold and others which is holding things up. (Although as a side note, I have to say Will’s concurrence that McCain’s campaign is "run by lobbyists" is nice). Wertheimer says that it is the obstructionism of Mitch McConnell, who will not let each of the four nominees be individually voted on, that is gumming up the works — a de facto demand that Von Spakovsky be approved, or the FEC cannot operate without a quorum and is thus non-functional.
(As Ryan Grimm notes in the Politico this morning, keeping all the regulatory boards powerless and frozen is all the rage — the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Council of Economic Advisers, the National Labor Relations Board and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission are all crippled because their boards don’t have enough members to meet, don’t have enough to call a quorum or are missing functioning numbers to operate. It suits Bush’s anti-regulatory impulse just fine, but as Grimm notes, "the federal government is running on fumes.")
Anyway, to recap: John McCain’s staunchest ally on campaign finance reform, Fred Wertheimer, says that it is illegal for him to be doing what he is doing.
Good for Wertheimer. That’s headline news.
Update: Hugh argues that Wertheimer’s ambiguous wording could also be interpreted to mean "since the FEC is shut down, there’s nobody to determine whether McCain is operating legally or not." I think it could also fairly be read that way, too.