McCain on 3rd Party Ads: ‘Cease and Desist’

By Jennifer Parker

Nov 12, 2007 2:09pm

ABC News’ Bret Hovell Reports: Senator John McCain , R-Ariz., issued a forceful statement Monday condemning advertising by outside groups in the presidential campaign, even advertising meant to benefit him.

McCain asked groups who might wish to support his run for the White House, to "cease and desist" any campaigning on his behalf.

"Anyone who believes they could assist my campaign by exploiting a loophole in campaign finance laws is doing me and our country a disservice," the statement read.

McCain’s words were directed at the Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America, a group registered as a 501 (c)(4) corporation, which ran an ad in South Carolina complimentary of McCain.

Campaign manager Rick Davis wrote a letter to McCain supporters that was similar in tone, saying that the best way to support the Senator is through donations directly to campaign.

"While not illegal, this group’s efforts certainly violate the spirit of reform and disclosure for which John McCain has fought over the past decade," Davis wrote.

The founder of the South Carolina group is Rick Reed, whose firm helped produce the 2004 Swift Boat ads that damaged Sen. John Kerry’s, D-Mass., presidential campaign, and who worked for McCain’s campaign earlier this year. The pro-McCain ad was first reported on Friday by the Associated Press.

McCain put out a statement on Friday, saying "I would prefer they do not air the ads."

But earlier Monday McCain’s Republican rival Mitt Romney, R-Mass., criticized McCain on the issue.

"Its the height of irony that the founder, excuse me, the father of McCain-Feingold, would now have supporters, now he’s saying he has nothing do with that, he doesn’t want them to do it, but that nonetheless his supporters have put together (the ads)," Romney said in New Hampshire.

McCain’s campaign has denied any connection to Reed’s group.

McCain was the author of the 2002 McCain-Feingold bill which called for an end to soft money in campaigns, but, many say, created a loophole for these groups such as Reed’s. He spoke out against the Swift Boat ads in 2004 and similar ads that ran against former Sen. Max Cleland, D-Ga, in 2002.

"I will never betray my trust to them or my own conscience for the sake of expediency, and I want all who support me to honor that commitment," McCain wrote in Monday’s statement.

ABC News’ Matt Stuart contributed to this story.

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