Huckabee Says Campaign Laws Aid McCain

The Associated Press
Friday, November 17, 2006; 7:28 PM

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on Friday said potential 2008 presidential rival John McCain's campaign finance reforms gives the Republican senator an advantage over other candidates by allowing him to transfer money easily.

"If you're a senator, you can take the money you raise in a Senate campaign and transfer it to a presidential, but you can't take money you raise in a state campaign and transfer that to a federal campaign," Huckabee, a Republican, told The Associated Press in an interview Friday.

"McCain was very smart in creating a system where he could take all of this Senate money that he had and turn it over to his presidential campaign to give him a distinct advantage over anyone else who ran," he said.

Huckabee, who leaves office in January due to term limits, is considering a run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. McCain, from Arizona, announced this week that he was forming a presidential exploratory committee.

A spokesman for McCain's committee said transferring the $1 million remaining from his 2004 re-election bid to a presidential campaign is an option, but denied that was a motivation for McCain's campaign finance legislation.

"That wasn't the intent of the law in any way, shape or form," said spokesman Craig Goldman.

Huckabee's comments came after a discussion he participated in at the Clinton presidential library in downtown Little Rock that focused on the 2006 election.

He has said he won't announce any decision to run until after his term ends in January.

During the forum, Huckabee criticized some campaign finance measures as encouraging independent groups, or so-called 527 groups, which are not subject to conventional campaign finance restrictions and can spend unlimited amounts on election advocacy.

"When you have a system that says you can't give to candidates except this much, but you can give to this independent group in unlimited amounts, guess where the money goes? It goes to the independent entity," he said.

When asked about the strongest ticket the Democrats could offer in 2008, Huckabee mentioned Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., praising her as smart and focused and calling her "a rock star in her own party."

"I think people will underestimate Hillary Clinton at their own peril," Huckabee said.

When asked about the best Republican ticket, Democratic National Committee Vice President Lottie Shackelford mentioned McCain, and then motioned to Huckabee.

"Arkansas has always been so underestimated by so much of the country, so I'd have to say Gov. Huckabee," she said.

The governor responded, "I think McCain would be a wonderful vice president."

© 2006 The Associated Press