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FEC Lawyers Side With McCain on Loan

Federal Election Commission attorneys on Thursday distributed a draft opinion saying presumptive presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) did not break campaign finance laws late last year by taking out a bank loan to keep his then-struggling campaign afloat.

The commission’s three Democrats and three Republicans will formally decide McCain’s fate at a public meeting next Thursday, in what amounts to the recently rebooted agency’s first major test.

The agency’s legal department concluded that McCain did not break the law by taking the loan — and then exceeding contribution limits — despite warnings to the contrary from since-ousted FEC chairman David Mason, who had a tense back-and-forth with the campaign in early 2008.

“We believe that the matching payment act does permit candidates to withdraw after they have been declared eligible,” the FEC’s lawyers concluded in their new draft guidance. “Although no eligible candidate may exceed the expenditure limits, the statues simply do not say whether the commission has discretion to reverse its eligibility determination and decertify a candidate.”

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