FEC Gives McCain Campaign a “Pass” on Foreign Campaign Fundraiser
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that the Federal Election Commission has decided to "close the file" on an April 22, 2008 Judicial Watch complaint related to a fundraising luncheon held at London’s Spencer House to benefit Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign, despite noting questionable delays in billing for the event.
In its "factual and legal analysis," the FEC noted that the McCain campaign was invoiced for the event one week after Judicial Watch filed its complaint, which "could raise a question as to the commercial reasonableness of Spencer House’s extension of credit to the campaign." However, the FEC ultimately decided nonetheless that no violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act had occurred.
The McCain fundraiser was held on March 20, 2008 at London’s Spencer House, billed as "London’s most magnificent 18th century private palace." The McCain campaign distributed an invitation indicating that the site for the luncheon had been provided "by kind permission of Lord Rothschild, OM GBE and the Hon. Nathaniel Rothschild," who are both foreign nationals. In statements to the press, the McCain campaign referred to the luncheon as a "fundraiser."
Judicial Watch filed its complaint with the FEC on April 22, 2008, noting the McCain campaign, "may have accepted an in-kind contribution from foreign nationals Lord Rothschild OM GBE and the Hon. Nathaniel Rothschild of Great Britain in contravention of federal election laws." On April 29, 2008, – one week after Judicial Watch’s complaint and 40 days after the event was held – the Spencer House finally invoiced the McCain campaign for the event. The invoice was paid three days later. The Spencer House claimed the billing delays resulted from the fact that Spencer House "needed to consult with ‘advisors’ to ascertain whether Value Added Tax should be added to the charges since the committee is located in the United States."
"This McCain foreign fundraising event was only cleaned up after we filed and publicized our complaint. We’re not convinced by the ‘after the fact’ invoices and excuses about taxes, nor should the FEC," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. "The FEC had better start taking seriously the threat posed by foreign nationals who seek to corrupt our election process. The McCain campaign fundraiser is just the tip of the iceberg. What about all of the foreign Internet contributions allegedly flooding into the Obama campaign? Foreign influence in U.S. elections is a serious problem and it deserves the FEC’s (and law enforcement’s) full attention."
According to 2 U.S.C. § 441e, it is illegal for any foreign national to "make a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value" to a Federal, State or Local election. (Judicial Watch filed a similar complaint on April 14, 2008, concerning a fundraiser by Elton John for Hillary Clinton’s campaign.)
To read Judicial Watch’s FEC complaint in its entirety, please click here.
To read the FEC’s response, click here.