McCain-Feingold and the “good cop”

How McCain-Feingold allows McCain to be the Good Cop while the GOP can still attack the Democratic candidates

Senator John McCain and the RNC yesterday implored the North Carolina GOP to cease running an advertisement that McCain says does not live up to the "very high standards" he expects and "divides the American people."

Of course, McCain has no control over what advertisements a state party chooses to run. As mentioned on Jonathan Martin’s blog at Politico, such an arrangement allows McCain to play the "good cop" to the state party’s "bad cop."

And through McCain’s financing plan for the general election he may have plenty of opportunities to repeat this role throughout the campaign.

His plan "allows up to $70,000 in individual contributions by channeling the money into different McCain-centric funds. The first $2,300 of that would go to McCain’s primary campaign. The Republican National Committee would receive $28,500 of the donation. The remaining funds would be divided equally, up to $10,000 a piece, among four states the campaign has designated as battlegrounds for November: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Colorado and New Mexico."

Consequently, all money given to the state parties will become the domain of the state party and will be disbursed independent of the McCain campaign.

There is an easy way that McCain could have avoided having to play the good cop role. Simply ease the contribution limits to political parties enacted in McCain-Feingold and amend FECA’s 441a(d) – the section that sets party coordinated expenditure limits.

These two actions would mean that McCain would not have to ask contributors to donate to state party committees, and he would effectively be able to veto an RNC advertisement that doesn’t live up to his "very high standards."

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.