McCain: Super-PACs will “destroy” political process, and it’s the Supreme Court’s fault

posted at 2:50 pm on January 13, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Really? John McCain vents about the rise of super-PACs in the wake of the Citizens United v FEC ruling in 2009, which barred the government from regulating when and how people could engage in political speech during an election cycle.  McCain decries the decision, which gutted his Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (known better as McCain-Feingold), and says that the Supreme Court will bear the blame for the destruction of the American political process:

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Sen. John McCain has endorsed Romney to win the primary.  He’s also the senator who championed the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that was largely gutted by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

On the campaign trail, we asked McCain about the ads from the SuperPAC that supports Romney.  He told us these SuperPACs will “destroy the political process,” and predicted “scandal” because of them.

We asked him why he or Governor Romney won’t publicly pressure these SuperPACs to take the ads down.

Here’s what he said:

McCain: Because they won’t stop. Because they won’t stop. I mean, as long as unlimited amounts of money are there, there not attributable to the candidate, it’s going to happen. I mean, it’s just, it is the way it is. We had campaign contribution limitations for a reason and the United States Supreme Court basically did away with all of that and we’re going to pay a heavy price for that and I also guarantee you that there will be scandals sooner or later.

What McCain fails to realize is that the campaign contributions themselves created the problem.  In fact, despite the Senator’s extemporaneous argument here, the Supreme Court left campaign contributions entirely intact.  The Citizens United ruling only upheld the First Amendment restriction on Congress from passing laws that restrict free speech — in this case, explicitly political speech, which was the original intention and purpose of the First Amendment.

The real problem arises from the series of complex and overlapping contribution limits placed on campaigns, along with absurd tax exemptions for political organizations.  If the federal government eliminated both the limits and the tax exemptions for all political donations and replaced them with requirements for immediate disclosure via constantly updated FEC and campaign websites (and fines for violations based on multipliers of the donations involved), the problem of unaccountable PACs and super-PACs would vanish overnight.  People would much rather donate directly to candidates or political parties, which would then be responsible for all of their own messaging and advertising.  The tax code would cease underwriting this nonsense, and we would know immediately who donates to whom and in what amount.

Instead, we have the same Senator who (apart from his other admirable qualities) wants to continue to insist that his failed approach — built on top of and because of the failed approach of those who preceded him — isn’t to blame for the current mess of outside groups and opacity.  McCain suffers from either a case of projection or the impulse to duck blame.  The actual blame for this mess goes to those who created, perpetuated, and expanded campaign finance “reform” structures that have obviously and utterly failed, not the Supreme Court that appears to have been the only people in Washington who can read the First Amendment and comprehend its meaning.


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McCain suffers from either a case of projection or the impulse to duck blame.

Oh, good Lord! A politician who doesn’t duck blame? Are you serious? McCain and Oromney and the rest of the Pub. establishment along with the democrats have perfected it. If one of these aholes ever stepped up and accepted the blame for their failed, corrupt actions, that would be worth writing about. You want one of these aholes to tell the truth and confess? You’ll have to waterboard them.

they lie on January 13, 2012 at 4:58 PM

Dismantle the Dept of Ed? Sure.Get the Fed under control?

Maybe if you switched which of those should be dismantled and which should be gotten under control I could take you, or the millions of establishment Republicans who think the way you do, seriously. As is, since you all don’t have any real committment to smaller government I will continue to advocate for a government that cares about people over corporations.

libfreeordie on January 13, 2012 at 5:08 PM

Oh the irony.

Dems get all the in-house help they want from the unions; they get 90% of print and electronic media; they get to collect millions in contributions using bogus $199.00 one-use VISA cards, and pacs are going to destroy the system?

Tell us John. You took government money and we were banned from trying to combat the MSM NON-vetting process on the commie twerp. We can’t have political speech but the Dems can?

Your da*n bill lost you the White House and gave us a one way ticket to third world hell.

I am very angry with the good Senator.

Portia46 on January 13, 2012 at 4:43 PM

While that had something to do with the election result, the bigger problem was that McCain didn’t seem to give a darn. For a man who can rant during the repeal of DADT and get angry when his precious CFR is struck down by the courts, he certainly couldn’t seem to find much emotion at all during the election. It would appear that he didn’t really care about winning the election. What a loser.

McDuck on January 13, 2012 at 5:10 PM

Dismantle the Dept of Ed? Sure.Get the Fed under control?
Maybe if you switched which of those should be dismantled and which should be gotten under control I could take you, or the millions of establishment Republicans who think the way you do, seriously. As is, since you all don’t have any real committment to smaller government I will continue to advocate for a government that cares about people over corporations.

I know you will. It feels good. You will always opt for ceding more liberty to a bigger government. Just acknowledge that in every discussion and we’ll save a lot of time. Just don’t expect the rest of us to be so willing to cede our liberty in the same way.

As it is – you’ve wasted enough of our time taking the scenic route to get to that point today.

CycloneCDB on January 13, 2012 at 5:14 PM

Since the Department of Education has been brought up, I’ll just point out that we have Boehner, Ted Kennedy, George W, and plenty of others on both sides to thank for expanding its role. It’s become a total mess and could use some serious downsizing and clean up.

McDuck on January 13, 2012 at 5:16 PM

You would think with all the money that flows into campaigns and PACs that they would be able to message a bit better.

Somehow money isn’t speech… and what money goes in isn’t getting very good speech, at that.

Speech is speech… and I blame the lack of effectively being able to communicate to PC, bad schools, and rewarding cronyism that doesn’t require good messaging just good back-scratching.

We have a political class full of back-scratchers.

The money is a symptom, not the problem.

ajacksonian on January 13, 2012 at 5:18 PM

A the GOP nominated him to be President? That’s what’s wrong with the old guard in the party. They hated Reagan, they trashed Goldwater and not this piece of excrement is going around saying that the first amendment should be infringed upon. He and his fat daughter ought to STF up and crawl back into their moonbat holes.

flytier on January 13, 2012 at 5:57 PM

AAnd the GOP nominated him to be President? That’s what’s wrong with the old guard in the party. They hated Reagan, they trashed Goldwater and notnow this piece of excrement is going around saying that the first amendment should be infringed upon. He and his fat daughter ought to STF up and crawl back into their moonbat holes.

flytier on January 13, 2012 at 5:57 PM

Was so angry when I read this that I couldn’t type.

flytier on January 13, 2012 at 5:58 PM

Shoot, if only someone would propose silencing free speech with some legislation; then maybe we could save our democracy by destroying our freedoms.

Oh wait, we’ve already had that. But now McCain is sad that his attempt to violate the Constitution was found to violate the Constitution…

I feel sad for him… so sad I’m laughing at his misery. Must be PTSD and shock from my sadness.

gekkobear on January 13, 2012 at 6:08 PM

the Supreme Court that appears to have been the only people in Washington who can read the First Amendment and comprehend its meaning.

Yes, the Supreme Court that came to the obvious conclusion that 200 years of legal precedent should be thrown aside in order to recognize corporations as possessing the rights of individuals Yes, that’s exactly what Thomas Jefferson had in mind.

It’s hard to imagine how the labor unions and the most wealthiest of Americans needed to have their civil liberties protected, but apparently the Supreme Court always knows best.

bayam on January 13, 2012 at 6:16 PM

If the federal government eliminated both the limits and the tax exemptions for all political donations and replaced them with requirements for immediate disclosure via constantly updated FEC and campaign websites (and fines for violations based on multipliers of the donations involved), the problem of unaccountable PACs and super-PACs would vanish overnight.

I disagree with the above for two simple reasons. First reason it is impossible to bribe someone anonymously. So if they don’t know where the funds come from they have to use their own best judgement. Secondly disclosure rules are really all about lists and more fundraising lists Maybe even a suckers list.

meci on January 13, 2012 at 6:23 PM

the Supreme Court that appears to have been the only people in Washington who can read the First Amendment and comprehend its meaning.
Yes, the Supreme Court that came to the obvious conclusion that 200 years of legal precedent should be thrown aside in order to recognize corporations as possessing the rights of individuals Yes, that’s exactly what Thomas Jefferson had in mind.

It’s hard to imagine how the labor unions and the most wealthiest of Americans needed to have their civil liberties protected, but apparently the Supreme Court always knows best.

bayam on January 13, 2012 at 6:16 PM

Yes. I think we should start violating the free speech rights of married couples, families, neighborhood associations, and any other association of individuals in the country. Heck? Why stop with speech? Let’s get rid of their protections agains tillegal searches and seizures. Let’s let the Army take the neioghborhood park and quarter troops there. See – a collection of people have no rights. Just the individual. Except for that whole freedom of association thingy. Individulas don’t have that freedom to associate.

Man – rules limiting government power are HARD to understand!

CycloneCDB on January 13, 2012 at 6:24 PM

Agree-get rid of them all. Let candidate control message.

jeanie on January 13, 2012 at 7:12 PM

20% of the Keating Five weighs in.

borntoraisehogs on January 13, 2012 at 11:45 PM

And the RNC wonders why my response to their phone calls for donations is “First, sit the GOP Senate LOSERship so it can let the new Leadership evolve, then we can talk”…

drfredc on January 14, 2012 at 1:26 AM

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