Last summer, when he was out of money, John McCain agreed to accept public financing for his primary campaign -- matching funds that require accepting a limit on total spending in the primaries and on spending in each state. He, John Edwards, and several long-gone candidates were officially granted public funds, in December, but have not yet received the cash, though McCain has borrowed in anticipation of receiving $5.8 million in March.

Now that he is the front-runner, McCain is surely tempted to escape that commitment, and raise private funds rather than accept the constraints of the public system, but The Politico reported Tuesday that "it could be tougher getting out than it was getting in." (Hmmm, a little like Iraq, perhaps?):

Even if McCain decided not to accept the payments, he’d need the FEC to vote to allow him to withdraw from the system.

But a partisan dispute over nominations in the Senate has denied the six-seat panel the four members necessary for a quorum. [There are only two commissioners at the moment.]

“At this point, (McCain) is in the matching fund system. Right now, there is no mechanism for the commission to turn off the spigot,” said Marc Elias, a campaign finance lawyer who represented the aborted presidential campaign of Democrat Chris Dodd.

On the other hand, Paul Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center (whose founder, Trevor Potter, happens to be the McCain campaign's lawyer) argues that as long as McCain sends the FEC a letter opting out of the public funds, he can ignore the limits.

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