POLITICS

Romney Touts McCain Campaign, Denies Designs On Veep Slot

04/23/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Former Presidential candidate and newly minted BFF of John McCain Mitt Romney was on the morning shows, today, not at all suggesting that he'd like to be Vice President. On Morning Joe, Romney touted McCain's "revolutionary approach" to the economy. In this case, "revolutionary" is strictly defined as "turning in a circle, endlessly and with giddy abandon," because the McCain approach is simply an extension of all of Bush's economic ideas that failed to grow the economy, coupled with "reducing government spending." It sounds pretty, but it sort of doesn't square with McCain's stated desire to continue the crazy, open-ended Iraq War Quagmiregasm and subsidize the bowel-boilingly inept government of Nouri al-Maliki.

After a furtive first attempt to seriously address the housing crisis, McCain was assailed for offering little more than platitudes, which cannot be redeemed at any reputable banking establishment - believe me, I tried. Well, Romney says that McCain has a plan, now: "He's going to have the...Federal Housing Administration provide a guaranteed home so that [homeowners] can keep their home as long as they can make the payments originally agreed to." At some point, McCain will explain how this isn't government spending, I guess. Also, McCain will painstakingly "go through and evaluate one [government] program to the other," which is the equivalent of sending out an eVite that reads, "Lobbyist Orgy Tonite! Bring your own rubber pants and ball-gag!"

In the presence of Romney, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski giggled and cooed, and Scarborough sighed, "I'm torn because I don't know whether I want Governor Romney to be McCain's vice presidential choice or his treasury secretary!"
Romney said he has no designs on the VP slot or plans to lend McCain any of his own money, despite the candidate's need for capital. He went on to assure that the way McCain is running his campaign is a good reflection of how he'd manage the economy:

ROMNEY: I think actually the way Senator McCain is running his campaign tells you something about how he'd look at Washington as well. He's not out there trying to raise the kind of million dollars a day plus that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are trying to raise, because he has a much smaller campaign staff. He is not overspending, he's focusing on his message. He's making an address today about the economy and how to strengthen it. He has plenty of money for the needs that he has and of course we're going to continue to work as a group of Republicans to raise the money that's necessary. But I'll be really surprised if he comes close to spending the kind of money that Barack Obama is spending or Hillary Clinton for that matter.

Naturally, it should be extremely worrisome to contemplate McCain running the nation the way he's run his campaign, seeing as how his campaign finance tactics are well on the tricksy side. Via Talking Points Memo:

As of December, McCain was still enrolled in the public financing system, but had yet to actually receive any public matching funds. The Federal Election Commission had certified that the campaign would be receiving $5.8 million in public funds. But they wouldn't get that money for a couple more months. In need of even more cash beyond the $3 million loan he'd already secured from a Maryland bank (he'd taken out a life insurance policy as collateral), the McCain campaign was stuck in a bind. They needed more money, but the bank needed collateral.

The promise of those public matching funds (to the tune of more than $5 million) was the only collateral the campaign could offer. But there was a problem with that. Using that promised money as collateral would have bound McCain to the public financing system, according to FEC rules. And the McCain camp wanted to avoid that, because the system limits campaigns to spending $54 million in the primary (through August). That would mean McCain would get seriously outspent by the Democratic nominee through the summer. (McCain has separately pledged to enroll in the system for the general election; that would give him $85 million in taxpayer funds for use after the party convention through Election Day but bar other contributions.)

So here's what the McCain campaign did. They struck a deal with the bank that simultaneously allowed his campaign to secure public funds if necessary, but did not compel his campaign to stay in the public system if fundraising went well (i.e. if he won the nomination). As McCain's lawyer told the Post, "We very carefully did not do that."

He was not promising to remain in the system -- he was promising to drop out of the system, and then opt back in if things went poorly. In that event, the $5.8 million would still be waiting for him. And he'd just hang around to collect it, even if he'd gotten drubbed in New Hampshire and the following states.

Yikes! That's downright Enronian.

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