A supporter of Clean Elections raised questions recently about Sen. John McComish's involvement in the Fiesta Bowl scandal while awaiting the results of a Supreme Court case dealing with private funding. McComish says the two are not related.
Doug Kendall, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center (CAC) based in Washington, D.C., wrote an article recently for the "Huffington Post" calling McComish "Exhibit A in why the Supreme Court should reject his claim."
"What we do know already is that the lead plaintiff in ‘McComish v. Bennett' is himself involved in a scandal that illustrates precisely why the public financing law he is challenging is necessary to avoid the corrupting influence of special interest money in politics," Kendall wrote.
McComish says his mistake in the Fiesta Bowl scandal has nothing to do with his Supreme Court case.
"The Clean Elections lawsuit has to do with one thing and one thing only," McComish said. "That one thing is campaign financing. Even more absolute than that, it has to do with the matching fund piece of campaign financing. Kendall is trying to come up with something to connect it with theFiesta Bowl.”
McComish admits that he did take a trip without filling out a form but the mistake was corrected as soon as news of scandals within the Fiesta Bowl broke out.
“What I did wrong is I took a trip, which is perfectly legal,” McComish said. “Once a year we have to fill out a form saying we did that and I forgot. That has nothing to do with campaign financing. The only way to connect the two is if I took funding from Fiesta Bowl employees for my campaign, which to the best of my knowledge I have not.”
The Fiesta Bowl is facing criticism because employees who donated to certain political campaigns were reimbursed by the bowl. McComish says there is no way to know if he received funding but he does not believe that his campaign was affected.
“Even if I did receive funds from Fiesta Bowl employees, there’s no way for us to know what the Fiesta Bowl was doing by paying that back,” McComish said. “That doesn’t have anything to do with me.”
CAC says even if McComish never received funding from Fiesta Bowl employees, the mistake of not reporting his trip is still ironic.
“It was pretty rich when you find McComish, by his own admission, was forced to amend finance reports that are required by law,” said Doug Pennington, press secretary for CAC. “From what I understand they must report trips above $500, and he failed to do that. It’s a clear example of money in politics.”
CAC supports Clean Elections as a way to prevent corruption within government elections.
The current law gives Clean Elections candidates a certain amount of funding to begin with. Whatever money a private candidate raises for their own campaign over what is given to Clean Elections candidates, gets matched.
When an independent group spends money supporting a private candidate, a Clean Elections candidate also gets matched whatever the independent group spent. It does not work both ways. If a Clean Elections candidate raises more money, the private candidate is not matched.
The matching of funds is meant to increase speech for Clean Elections candidates, but McComish said in his own campaign he just stopped raising money.
“In my case the independent expenditure was a flier that was not done very well that cost $5,000,” McComish said. “Well, then all of my opponents got $5,000 to spend however they like and I got nothing. If I was running against three Clean Elections candidates and one of them got an independent expenditure of $5,000 done on their behalf the other two got $5,000 and I would still get nothing. The only way to fight back was to raise money but if I do that, they get matched.”
For this reason, McComish joined the cause to strike down Clean Elections matching funds as unconstitutional. Pennington says McComish’s mistake may hurt his credibility.
“Just the fact that the person trying to put down the Clean Elections Act is himself running up against and conflicting with the public disclosure law is ironic,” Pennington said. “This case is his namesake. He tied himself to this case and this scandal, not us.”
The case was heard by the Supreme Court and a decision is expected before the court breaks in July.
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