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McCain denies links to 'soft money'

Story Highlights

• NEW: McCain says Washington Post article "worst hit job" in his career
• NEW: Post says McCain finance co-chairs gave $13.5 million in soft money
• NEW: Spokesman: McCain pushed bill recently to restrict 527s
• McCain co-wrote the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill
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MUNICH, Germany (CNN) -- Sen. John McCain blasted a report in the Washington Post that said the Arizona Republican, who has campaigned against the use of "soft money," is using just those kinds of funds to support his GOP presidential nomination.

McCain told CNN the article is "worst hit job that has ever been done in my entire political career."

According to the story published on Sunday, campaign and IRS records show several of McCain's finance co-chairmen "have given or raised large donations for political parties or 527 groups."

Named after tax code, a 527 is a tax-exempt organization created to influence political campaigns. "Soft money" refers to a type of unlimited contribution to these organizations from corporate and wealthy donors.

"In all, the finance co-chairs have given at least $13.5 million in soft money and 527 donations since the 1998 election," the Washington Post reported.

A leader in the charge to limit the use of "soft money" in political campaigns, the senator co-wrote the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill that, for the first time, prohibited political parties from raising "soft money."

He has also sought to regulate independent 527 groups from raising and spending millions on "issue" ads that are often thinly veiled attacks on candidates.

These groups played an influential role in the 2004 presidential election because of the McCain-Feingold regulations on soft money.

McCain "has been and remains committed to 527 reform, as evidenced by the fact that just two weeks ago he introduced a bill in Congress to restrict contributions to 527s," said Brian Jones, a senior adviser to McCain and spokesman for his presidential exploratory committee.

"He also understands that if neither the FEC (Federal Election Commission), the courts or Congress enforce laws that already exist to govern 527s, they will continue to operate outside legal restrictions on the amounts of money that can be contributed to campaigns," Jones told CNN.

CNN's Mark Preston contributed to this report

Senators John McCain, left, and Joe Lieberman in Munich, Germany, Sunday. McCain blasted a Washington Post story linking him to "soft money."




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