Washington, DC - The Democratic National Committee today filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the U.S. Department of State seeking information about possible violations of the Hatch Act in connection to John McCain's events in Ottawa today. The FOIA request follows reports that McCain campaign officials requested assistance in arranging a $100-a-plate luncheon speech from U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins.
According to reports, Senator Lindsey Graham, a McCain campaign co-chair, asked Ambassador Wilkins "for advice about logistics, venues and cities" for the event. Ambassador Wilkins also reportedly contacted a Canadian business leader to help sell tickets to the event. McCain's appearance is a campaign event being paid for by his campaign. The Hatch Act forbids U.S. Ambassadors from engaging in any partisan activity whatsoever on foreign soil. The DNC today called on the State Department to turn over all records related to Senator McCain's visit.
Today's report follows news this week that Senator McCain has refused to reimburse a private company for the use of its corporate jet. Senator McCain is also skirting the law by unilaterally withdrawing from the primary funds program after using the promise of taxpayer money to secure a loan and gain free ballot access. Earlier this year, outside groups filed another FEC complaint related to Senator McCain's fundraiser in London's Spencer House in April.
"By apparently running afoul of the Hatch Act during his trip to Canada today, it appears that Senator McCain is once again putting his political aspirations ahead of following the law," said DNC spokeswoman Karen Finney. "Between his refusal to pay for his campaign's use of a corporate jet and his illegally attempting to withdraw from the primary funds program, this is becoming a disturbing pattern of impropriety on the part of Senator McCain and his campaign. How can the American people trust John McCain if he is unwilling to follow the law when it gets in the way of his political aspirations?"
For a copy of the FOIA Request, click here:
SKIRTING THE HATCH ACT…
McCain Campaign Asked Ambassador to Skirt Hatch Act. "A Canadian newspaper reported Thursday that Friday's scheduled $100-a-plate luncheon speech by Sen. John McCain in Ottawa was organized in part by U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins, a former South Carolina lawmaker whom President Bush appointed in 2005…The article in the Edmonton Sun, and an earlier one in the Globe and Mail, says that Wilkins contacted Thomas d'Aquino, the president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, to help set up what they described as a fundraiser before McCain's visit. McCain is scheduled to give a speech at the the Chateau Laurier Hotel and to meet with several Canadian officials… The Hatch Act circumscribes political activity for government employees. According to the American Foreign Service Association Web site, the State Department's ethics office prohibits fundraising activities for its presidential appointees." [The Trail blog, Washington Post, 6/19/08: http://blog.washingtonpost.com/the-trail/2008/06/19/democrats_question_ambassadors.html#more ]
McCain Campaign Approached Canadians Seeking Visit & CEO Reception Hosts. Two weeks ago, U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins telephoned big-business lobbyist Tom d'Aquino, head of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives. Wilkins had been contacted by the McCain campaign about a Canadian visit, and the ambassador wanted to know if some of d'Aquino's group of corporate chief executives might be interested in meeting the Republican presidential candidate. Almost instantly, d'Aquino jumped at the opportunity, and an additional $100-a-plate luncheon organized by the Economic Club of Canada sold out in 30 minutes with tickets now reselling at up to $1,000 a pop. [Edmonton Sun, 6/19/08: http://www.edmontonsun.com/Comment/2008/06/19/5921326-sun.html]
Coming to Canada McCain's Choice; Visit Arranged By Lindsey Graham Who Passed Word that McCain Was Interested in Coming to Canada. Mr. McCain's visit came together very quickly. About two weeks ago, his organization contacted the Economic Club of Canada, whose president, Mark Adler, has strong business connections. Coming to Ottawa was the McCain organization's choice, club spokeswoman Nicolee Tattersall says. As well, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins, who is from South Carolina, is a close friend of South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who is very close with Mr. McCain. According to the U.S. source, Mr. Graham called the ambassador to tell him that Mr. McCain was interested in coming to Canada. He asked for advice about logistics, venues and cities that would be appropriate for the presidential nominee. [Globe & Mail, 6/13/08: http://ago.mobile.globeandmail.com/generated/archive/RTGAM/html/20080613/wmccain13.html ]
MISUSE OF CORPORATE JETS…
Wall Street Journal: McCain Campaign Fails to Reimburse For Up To Four Campaign Flights. "She used the jet on several trips last year that included campaign-related activity but never got campaign reimbursement, according to flight-tracking records and campaign-finance reports verified by the McCain campaign. At the New York fund-raiser, she spoke on stage, warming up the audience for her husband. If the campaign had paid for Mrs. McCain's trip to New York and three others that appear to have included some campaign work, it would likely have cost a total of about $15,000, the equivalent of first-class fare for the trips combined." [Wall Street Journal, 6/18/08: http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB121374837867082729-lMyQjAxMDI4MTEzNzcxNDc4Wj.html ]
Republican Expert: McCain Should Have Paid for the Flights. "Jan Baran, a Republican campaign lawyer, said the campaign should have paid. 'I don't know why they want to fight it,' he said. 'The chutzpah is not that they're not paying for this trip, it's that they're using a corporate airplane at a highly discounted rate.'" [Wall Street Journal, 6/18/08: http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB121374837867082729-lMyQjAxMDI4MTEzNzcxNDc4Wj.html ]
New York Times: McCain Used Unresolved Loophole in His Own Reform Law to Get Discounted Flights. "Mr. McCain's campaign paid a total of $241,149 for the use of that plane from last August through February, records show. That amount is approximately the cost of chartering a similar jet for a month or two, according to industry estimates. The senator was able to fly so inexpensively because the law specifically exempts aircraft owned by a candidate or his family or by a privately held company they control. The Federal Election Commission adopted rules in December to close the loophole -- rules that would have required substantial payments by candidates using family-owned planes -- but the agency soon lost the requisite number of commissioners needed to complete the rule making. Because that exemption remains, Mr. McCain's campaign was able to use his wife's corporate plane like a charter jet while paying first-class rates, several campaign finance experts said. Several of those experts, however, added that his campaign's actions, while keeping with the letter of law, did not reflect its spirit." [New York Times, 4/27/08: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/27/us/politics/27plane.html?_r=1&oref=slogin]
SKIRTING THE FEC…
FEC Did Not Grant McCain Permission To Withdraw From Public Financing System in the Primary. According to the Washington Post, "The nation's top federal election official told Sen. John McCain yesterday that he cannot immediately withdraw from the presidential public financing system as he had requested, a decision that threatens to dramatically restrict his spending until the general election campaign begins in the fall… Mason notified McCain that the commission had not granted his Feb. 6 request to withdraw from the presidential public financing system." [Washington Post, 2/22/08]
FEC Raised Questions About A Loan the McCain Received. According to the Associated Press, "The government's top campaign finance regulator says John McCain can't drop out of the primary election's public financing system until he answers questions about a loan he obtained to kickstart his once faltering presidential campaign… Federal Election Commission Chairman David Mason, in a letter to McCain this week, said the all-but-certain Republican nominee needs to assure the commission that he did not use the promise of public money to help secure a $4 million line of credit he obtained in November." [AP/MSNBC, 2/21/08]
THE SPENCER HOUSE FUNDRAISER…
Judicial Watch Files Complaint Over London Fundraiser. "Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it filed a formal complaint, dated April 22, 2008, with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) related to a fundraising luncheon held at London's Spencer House to benefit Senator John McCain's presidential campaign. The venue for the event was apparently donated to the campaign by foreign nationals, in violation of federal campaign finance laws." [Judicial Watch release, 4/24/08: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUS256624+24-Apr-2008+MW20080424 ]