Blog — Senate

March 18, 2014

Going Rogue: Once a Reformer, John McCain Exploits Campaign Finance Loophole

By CREW Staff

John McCain - Guard Association of the United States General ConferenceIt turns out a determined member of Congress can find a way around the most straightforward of campaign finance regulations—and even someone once known as “Congress’s leading champion of campaign finance reform” isn’t above doing it.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) found a creative way to skirt a $5,000 limit on contributions from a campaign committee to a political action committee (PAC). In fact, his method was so successful he was able to freely transfer an asset worth nearly $3 million: his campaign mailing list.

During the 2010 election cycle, Sen. McCain had a campaign committee, Friends of John McCain, Inc., and a leadership PAC, Country First PAC. On January 31, 2011, Friends of John McCain, Inc. was converted from a campaign committee into a leadership PAC named Patriot First PAC. Because both Patriot First PAC and Country First PAC were established and controlled by Sen. McCain, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) considered the two leadership PACs to be affiliated committees, which allowed them to transfer funds and assets to each other without limit.

The day after its creation, the Patriot First PAC transferred the mailing list to Sen. McCain’s pre-existing leadership PAC, Country First PAC, reporting the value of the transaction as nearly $3 million. Less than four months later, after a few more minor transactions, the Patriot First PAC was terminated, suggesting transferring the mailing list was the whole reason it existed in the first place. On December 27, 2012, Sen. McCain established a new campaign committee with the same exact name as the one he used during the 2010 election cycle – Friends of John McCain, Inc.

His original campaign committee could have rented the list to the Country First PAC, but it would have had to charge the PAC fair market value. Instead, a little maneuvering let Sen. McCain turn the valuable list over to his PAC for free. Tactics like this strengthen the perception that campaign finance law is so full of loopholes, politicians can do whatever they want.

The House FOIA Bill Is a Good First Step — But Only A First Step

We urge the Senate to adopt the best ideas in the House FOIA Oversight Act while going even further to protect the public’s right to know. Read More ›

Another Judge Calls DOJ to Task for Its FOIA Processing

The list of district court judges unhappy with how the Department of Justice is processing CREW’s FOIA requests kept growing last week. Read More ›

Rubio Still Has Ties to Rivera

Curiously enough, some central players in Rep. Rivera’s scandals are still on Sen. Rubio’s payroll. Read More ›

It’s Time for James Clapper to Go

It may have taken some time, but we applaud the members of Congress who recognize that the Director of National Intelligence lied. Read More ›

© 2014 Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, all rights reserved.
• 409 7th St. NW • Suite 300 • Washington, DC 20004 • 202-408-5565 •


Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington®, and the
“CREW | Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington” wordmark are registered trademarks.