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FEC Starts Digging Through Backlog

The Federal Election Commission continued to chip away at its backlogged caseload on Thursday, handing down advice to presumptive presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and four other campaign committees at a packed three-hour public meeting.

Despite concerns of some commissioners, the bipartisan panel unanimously agreed, 6-0, with FEC lawyers that McCain did not break the law late last year by taking out a bank loan to keep his then-struggling campaign afloat.

“There was some very careful maneuvering in these loan documents,” Democratic-nominated commission Ellen Weintraub told her colleagues. “I have a lot of problems with the way this loan was written.”

McCain’s campaign lawyer, Trevor Potter, is a former FEC chairman.

And much to GOP-nominated commissioners’ chagrin, the panel deadlocked on party lines as to whether Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) could use his campaign funds to beat back charges made in court by deceased alleged Washington, D.C., Madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey.

Without four votes necessary to approve either the GOP or Democratic-backed versions of a ruling on the Vitter case, FEC lawyers were ordered to rework some of the language so the Senator could use some of his campaign war chest for public-relations expenses.

“Really, the case couldn’t be more compelling,” said FEC Chairman Don McGahn, one of three Republicans who supported allowing Vitter to use his campaign money to pay his legal expenses. “The commission has had many [similar] cases over the years and I’m very hesitant to undo what the commission has already done.”