ABC News' Tahman Bradley reports: A federal judge today dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Democratic Party that tried to prevent presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, from opting out of the public financing system. The Democratic National Committee had asked that the court force the Federal Election Commission to take action against McCain, saying he had already made use of the program by securing a bank loan on the promise of public money.
Judge John Bates wrote in a five-page decision that the case is the FEC's to decide, and even though the commission has been unable to obtain a quorum for several months, the matter still remains in their jurisdiction. Federal law requires a party to file a complaint with the FEC and then wait 120 days before filing suit, Bates, an appointee of President Bush, pointed out in his ruling. The DNC complaint, which asks for investigation of a bank loan agreement the McCain campaign entered into with Fidelity and Trust Bank of Bethesda, was filed in April. Before the FEC's quorum troubles, the panel asked the McCain campaign to explain the agreement.
Republican National Committee chief counsel Sean Cairncross applauded the decision in a statement. "The Court’s order confirmed what the McCain campaign said at the time the suit was filed; the DNC lawsuit was nothing but a frivolous publicity stunt."
The McCain campaign did not offer comment.
McCain requested and received approval for public financing after his fundraising slowed last summer. When the campaign got back on track early this year, McCain wrote the FEC saying he was no longer interested in public money. Candidates who opt into the public financing system must adhere to spending limits, and such limits would put McCain at a big disadvantage if the Democratic presidential nominee does not use public money in the fall.
The DNC doesn't think the matter is over. "Unless there is a serious and timely investigation under way by the FEC, we will be back in court in the end of June to hold McCain accountable for breaking the law," spokeswoman Stacie Paxton said.