Great news: McCain to partner with Democrats on campaign finance reform again

posted at 3:21 pm on May 16, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

No one is really surprised by this, right?  John McCain blasted the Supreme Court in January for gutting his signature McCain-Feingold law by, er, not allowing the federal government to criminalize political speech.  At the time, he warned that super-PACs would “destroy the political process.” Now McCain wants to rein in the super-PACs, and he’s going to partner with Democrats to kneecap them:

Good-government advocates who worked with McCain in the 1990s and early 2000s had begun to think he’d given up on the issue. But McCain said Tuesday he could join Democrats once again to form a bipartisan coalition, even though it would annoy the Republican leadership.

“I’ve been having discussions with Sen. [Sheldon] Whitehouse [D-R.I.] and a couple others on the issue,” McCain told The Hill.

McCain said he wants to ensure the legislation is balanced to cover labor union activity as well as spending by corporations and rich individuals.

“I want it to be balanced and address the issue of union contributions as well as other outside contributions,” he said.

At least that would be novel, since his BCRA didn’t bother to do so the first time around.  However, it’s just as illegitimate to prevent unions to conduct political speech as it is corporations or people in general.  The First Amendment bars Congress from passing laws infringing on free speech expressly for the purpose of protecting political speech, not nudity or the sports section.

McCain should be acknowledging that super-PACs are largely his fault, and the fault of other reformers.  For the last 40 years, reformers have tried to chase money out of politics, but it simply doesn’t work because people want to get their political messages published and will find ways to do it.  The reforms, culminating in the BCRA, have made the process overwhelmingly less transparent, and driven people to form these political groups to avoid campaign finance restrictions.  The money that flows into super-PACs would normally go directly to candidates, who at least have to be held accountable for their messaging by the voters.

Real campaign finance reform would consist of eliminating artificial barriers that incentivize people to redirect their cash to outside groups, revoking the tax-exempt status of all political organizations and campaigns, and forcing full and immediate transparency on all contributions to candidates for federal-level offices.  The Internet makes that not only possible, but more cost-effective than filing paper forms at the FEC.  If McCain wants to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem, that’s the kind of proposal we should be seeing.  Given who he’s partnering with on this effort, that outcome seems very, very unlikely.

Update: My second-to-last sentence had problem and solution reversed, but I’ve fixed it now.


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One of my dreams: Get a GOP Senate leader in the next Congress who will tell McCain to change to Democrat or be thrown out of the Senate.

(yes, they can refuse to seat him and there is nothing he can do about it)

platypus on May 16, 2012 at 5:30 PM

McCain should be acknowledging that super-PACs are largely his fault, and the fault of other reformers. For the last 40 years, reformers have tried to chase money out of politics, but it simply doesn’t work because people want to get their political messages published and will find ways to do it.

That’s a very narrow interpretation. The Founding Fathers didn’t anticipate the rise of mass media and the ability of a small, wealthy elite to move the polls by 10% or more through an advertising barrage.
It’s hard to understand how freedom of expression is curtailed by preventing a wealthy individual from controlling the message transmitted over public airwaves. Just ask Newt or Santorom how that can change an election cycle.

Romney’s effectiveness in turning states in his direction after a few weeks of negative ads should be a warning sign that the system is broken and that transparency alone won’t solve the problem. Otherwise, you’ll start asking yourself why the candidate with the largest bank account keeps winning the GOP nomination.

bayam on May 16, 2012 at 5:38 PM

As all crooked pols know, the major corruption happens after you are in office. That’s when you can play the market, buy soon-to-be premium land, get in on IPOs, get your family in tight with local lobby groups, and local ‘businesses’.

There’s hardly any talk about that…so that’s where the money is. McCain is a fool to be the cover boy for these guys

I mean really, how much ego does it take to trade off the country for the flattery of the sycophantic class

r keller on May 16, 2012 at 5:51 PM

Romney’s effectiveness in turning states in his direction after a few weeks of negative ads should be a warning sign that the system is broken and that transparency alone won’t solve the problem. Otherwise, you’ll start asking yourself why the candidate with the largest bank account keeps winning the GOP nomination.

bayam on May 16, 2012 at 5:38 PM

Funny how the AFL-CIO, SEIU and Democrats like Obama managed to escape your criticism.

Brian1972 on May 16, 2012 at 5:52 PM

Maybe Romney can offer him the V.A. cabinet slot and we’ll get rid of him that way.

slickwillie2001 on May 16, 2012 at 5:55 PM

Transparency is not applied to Democrats, who use the transparency of election financing to target law abiding Americans for repercussions for not supporting further socialization of the nation. People should be allowed to back candidates and policy the way they do with their vote, hidden from public scrutiny.

Obama collects tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars in donation from other countries, gift cards and other nefarious means, yet there is no one that is going to ask to know who is donating and whether it is legal or illegal. Quite frankly, I like it that way. I do not need occupy protesters who live off my tax dollars having the ability to find my donations, target me, and occupy my life.

Campaign finance reform for a better America. Give as much as you want, to anyone you want, with no tax deductions or declarations for any reason you want, and you do not have to tell them who you are by law (individual groups may want to know, that is their prerogative.)

Well, cannot stay long, have to go pick up my wife and baby girl at the airport… Just wanted to say John McCain, go find a big barbed pole with a sharp tip to sit on!

astonerii on May 16, 2012 at 6:01 PM

Maybe Romney can offer him the V.A. cabinet slot and we’ll get rid of him that way.

slickwillie2001 on May 16, 2012 at 5:55 PM

As if my Veterans benefits are not already screwed up enough already!!!

astonerii on May 16, 2012 at 6:01 PM

Look at the size of that guy’s hand! Whoa.

ToddW on May 16, 2012 at 6:32 PM

One of my dreams: Get a GOP Senate leader in the next Congress who will tell McCain to change to Democrat or be thrown out of the Senate.

(yes, they can refuse to seat him and there is nothing he can do about it)

platypus on May 16, 2012 at 5:30 PM

I hope your dream comes true!!

bluefox on May 16, 2012 at 7:02 PM

Remember this?

Tapscott’s copy desk 4/29/2006
Did you catch Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, on the Imus Show responding to criticism from Talk Radio’s Michael Graham? Here’s the key quote:

“He [Michael Graham] also mentioned my abridgement of First Amendment rights, i.e. talking about campaign finance reform….I know that money corrupts….I would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected, that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I’d rather have the clean government.”

Is there any remaining doubt that McCain thinks your core rights are less important than his idea of “clean government”?

sandspur on May 16, 2012 at 8:02 PM

what a worthless old fool.

therightwinger on May 16, 2012 at 8:12 PM

at heart, mccain is a progressive in the mold of teddy roosevelt, who only votes conservative as much as he does because of the state he represents….

therightwinger on May 16, 2012 at 8:13 PM

Romney’s effectiveness in turning states in his direction after a few weeks of negative ads should be a warning sign that the system is broken and that transparency alone won’t solve the problem. Otherwise, you’ll start asking yourself why the candidate with the largest bank account keeps winning the GOP nomination.

bayam on May 16, 2012 at 5:38 PM

Funny how the AFL-CIO, SEIU and Democrats like Obama managed to escape your criticism.

Brian1972 on May 16, 2012 at 5:52 PM

It applies to all of the above and all sources of money. In that post I was referring to the GOP nomination and didn’t think it was relevant to mention the AFL in that context.

bayam on May 16, 2012 at 8:14 PM

Time to pass the torch down to your daughter, John, and let her run for “your” seat, like your heroes across the aisle do.

Then suggest she asks Sarah for an endorsment…

drunyan8315 on May 16, 2012 at 9:49 PM

I’m guessing that either John did not get the memo about Lugar or remember what happened to Bob Bennett the last election cycle.

He is the senior member of a diminishing class of aging go-along, get-along Republicans.

joelj31 on May 17, 2012 at 2:08 AM

How many times does this dessicated rat turd have to be slapped down before he gets it? The stale vomit taste of having voted for him in 2008 still lingers. ESAD, McLame.

swinia sutki on May 17, 2012 at 6:02 AM

There he goes again, working on his legacy. This is what we get when pols think they know better than the constitution.

Kissmygrits on May 17, 2012 at 9:32 AM

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