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McCain Camp Faces Mandatory FEC Audit

Talk about rubbing salt in the wound.

Now that Sen. John McCain has officially lost the presidency, Politico reminds him that he still has an audit to look forward to.

According to the report, President-elect Barack Obama, who opted out of public financing for his general election bid, will likely avoid an examination of his campaign’s books by the Federal Election Commission. Because McCain did accept public funding, an FEC audit is mandatory, at the campaign’s expense. Fortunately for him, Politico reports the McCain campaign allocated $9.4 million to pay for it.

Obama is expected to escape that level of scrutiny mostly because he declined an $84 million public grant for his campaign that automatically triggers an audit and because the sheer volume of cash he raised and spent minimizes the significance of his errors. Another factor: The FEC, which would have to vote to launch an audit, is prone to deadlocking on issues that inordinately impact one party or the other – like approving a messy and high-profile probe of a sitting president.

McCain, on the other hand, accepted the $84 million in taxpayer money, which not only barred him from raising or spending more – allowing Obama to fund many times more ads and ground operations – but also will keep his lawyers busy for a couple years explaining how every penny was spent.

I would recommend the FEC closely examine the McCain campaign’s billing of the media. This was a much-discussed potential scandal among the reporters on the McCain plane that never got reported, I suspect, for fear of getting kicked off the plane.

I never flew on the Obama plane, so I can’t say if this was an issue there as well. However, it was not uncommon to hear complaints from reporters on the McCain plane about being billed $150 for a lunch that they were not even able to eat because they were on pool duty.

Here’s a sample of some of the charges from one receipt I received from the McCain campaign:

7/7/2008 396 DENVER CENTER FOR WI-FI $191.06

7/15/2008 402 BREAKFAST $82.23

7/16/2008 411 DUKE ENERGY CENTE WI-FI $205.85

7/17/2008 414 BREAKFAST $60.58

The meals were never extravagant. Breakfast almost always consisted of a standard buffet of eggs, potatoes, sausage/bacon, coffee and juice, a selection of cereals, etc. How that could possibly cost $82 per head is quite a mystery. Similarly, $205 for wireless Internet at a rally venue seems a tad expensive.

Perhaps the campaign was just paying whatever a vendor asked, and not caring because they would simply pass the costs on to the media outlets. Either that, or the media appears to have been illegally subsidizing the campaign.

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