WASHINGTON - John McCain urged his donors and backers yesterday to "cease and desist immediately" from supporting advertising efforts that are not officially connected to his Republican presidential campaign but that promote his stance on political issues.
McCain, who has been a longtime critic of such independent expenditures, specifically singled out Republican media strategist and former McCain adviser Rick Reed and urged him to stop running ads that portray McCain and two of his congressional allies as leaders on national security and frugal government spending.
"Anyone who believes they could assist my campaign by exploiting a loophole in campaign finance laws is doing me and our country a disservice," McCain said in a statement. "If you respect me or my principles, I urge you to refrain from using my name and image in any ads or other activities."
The Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America, which began running ads in South Carolina that were created by Reed, was established under tax laws as a 501(c)4 organization, a nonprofit foundation that can raise money in unlimited amounts from donors whose identities do not have to be disclosed.
On Friday, Reed said the foundation planned to expand its television campaign, while acknowledging McCain's advocacy of changing the influence of money in politics. McCain, along with Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, authored the 2002 law that eliminated unlimited contributions, or soft money, to political parties.
"It is our view, however, that the issue of campaign finance reform pales in comparison to the need to identify leaders who not only understand the threat of Islamic radicalism, but have the experience, judgment, and resolve to support policies that will defeat it," Reed said.
Despite McCain's disavowal of the group, Republican rival Mitt Romney criticized McCain yesterday saying the foundation represented "an entire end-run on any effort to control campaign spending and offer transparency."
"It is the height of irony that the author of McCain-Feingold now has his supporters raising, apparently, vast sums of money, well above the contribution limits that normal citizens see, to support his campaign," Romney said.
In a statement, Mark Salter, McCain's senior adviser, said that Romney, a wealthy former venture capitalist, has pumped millions of his own money into the campaign, but once supported the changes in campaign law that McCain helped push through Congress five years ago.