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John McCain on Government Reform

Republican nominee for President; Senior Senator (AZ)


Hayworth was unethical lobbyist hawking infomercials

McCain hammered Hayworth for his work as a registered lobbyist & infomercial pitchman after losing his re-election bid in 2006. Hayworth has stumbled since video surfaced of his appearance in a 2007 infomercial hawking free government money on behalf of Florida company accused of charging thousands of dollars for information that was readily available online or at a public library.

"These are the facts," McCain said. "J.D. Hayworth was a lobbyist. He was in late-night infomercials. He said he didn't d due diligence. My God man, didn't you know that this was a group that was taking people's money to say it could give them free government money."

Hayworth said, "It's really sad to see John McCain, who should be revered as a statesman, basically reduce to a political shape-shifter," he said, then turned to his opponent. "John, you've changed positions so much in this campaign maybe we'll have to set up an extra podium for you depending on which John McCain is going to answer which question."

Source: AP coverage of 2010 Arizona Senate Republican Primary Debate , Jul 17, 2010

Considered one-term pledge to address age issue

[For his candidacy announcement, McCain had] been working on an idea that would jolt McCain's campaign back to life. The idea was as simple as it was radical: a one-term pledge. McCain would promise that if he won the White House, he would spend 4 years in residence and then step down. The pledge would embody the theme that McCain cared only about solving the country's problems and not about indulging his ambition. It would say that he was going to tackle the hardest issues--Iraq, immigration--with no regard for reelection. It would mitigate what the campaign's polling showed was his most significant liability: his age. It would be a bold statement about political sacrifice, a larger-than-life, maverick move.

McCain had reservations, but knew his campaign needed electroshock. But not everyone thought the pledge was a good idea. Some considered it crazy, in fact. They told McCain that the pledge would marginalize him and the office of the presidency. That it would make him a lame duck from day one

Source: Game Change, by Heilemann & Halpern, p.281-282 , Jan 11, 2010

Picked Palin because she took on entrenched bureaucracy

[McCain] didn't go with a conventional, safer pick. John believed in change, the power of independent and committed individuals, the power of women. He thought it was time to shake things up.

John explained his search for a vice presidential candidate "I found someone with an outstanding reputation for standing up to special interests and entrenched bureaucracies. Someone who has fought against corruption and the failed policies of the past. Someone who stopped government from wasting taxpayers' money on things they don't want or need, and put it back to work for the people."

"She stands up for what's right, and she doesn't let anyone tell her to sit down," John continued. "She's fought oil companies and party bosses and do-nothing bureaucrats, and anyone who put their interests before the interests of the people she swore an oath to serve. My friends and fellow Americans, I am very pleased and very privileged to introduce to you the next vice president of the US--Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska!"

Source: Going Rogue, by Sarah Palin, p.223-226 , Nov 17, 2009

Led bipartisan "Gang of 14" on judicial nominee standoff

Two months after losing the SC primary in 2000, McCain said softly through gritted teeth, "I endorse Governor Bush." McCain returned to the Senate the leader of a rump movement of moderates, independents, reformers, and citizens fed up with the ways of Washington.

His relations with the new White House were distant and chilly. Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle quietly approached McCain and encouraged him to switch parties. McCain mulled over the idea but would not do it.

Then he began to flex his muscles. With Democrat Russell Feingold of Wisconsin, he put together a coalition to pass the most significant campaign finance reform act since Watergate. In Bush's second term, McCain fought the president over torture policy and forced him to give ground. He led a bipartisan group known as the :Gang of 14" that defused a tense standoff over Bush's judicial nominees. Conservatives, looking ahead to probable Supreme Court vacancies, were infuriated.

Source: The Battle for America 2008, by Balz & Johnson, p. 38 , Aug 4, 2009

Partisan rancor isn’t a cause, it’s a symptom

We need to change the way government does almost everything, from the way we protect our security to the way we compete in the world economy; from the way we respond to disasters to the way we fuel our transportation network; from the way we train our workers to the way we educate our children. All these functions of government were designed before the rise of the global economy, the information technology revolution and the end of the Cold War. We have to catch up to history, and we have to change th way we do business in Washington. The constant partisan rancor that stops us from solving these problems isn’t a cause, it’s a symptom. It’s what happens when people go to Washington to work for themselves and not for you. Again and again, I’ve worked with members of both parties to fix problems that need to be fixed. That’s how I will govern as president. I will reach out my hand to anyone to help me get this country moving again. I have that record and the scars to prove it. Senator Obama does not.
Source: Speech at 2008 Republican National Convention , Sep 4, 2008

Fought corruption and the big spenders in both parties

I don’t work for a party, or a special interest. I don’t work for myself. I work for you. I’ve fought corruption, and it didn’t matter if the culprits were Democrats or Republicans. They violated their public trust and they had to be held accountable. I’ve fought the big spenders in both parties who waste your money on things you neither need nor want. The first big-spending, pork-barrel earmark bill that comes across my desk, I will veto it. I will make them famous and you will know their names.
Source: Speech at 2008 Republican National Convention , Sep 4, 2008

Share the credit for good ideas instead of fighting over it

Instead of rejecting good ideas because we didn’t think of them first, let’s use the best ideas from both sides. Instead of fighting over who gets the credit, let’s try sharing it. This amazing country can do anything we put our minds to. I’ll ask Democrats & independents to serve with me, and my administration will set a new standard for transparency and accountability. We’re going to finally starting getting things done for the people who are counting on us, and I won’t care who gets the credit.
Source: Speech at 2008 Republican National Convention , Sep 4, 2008

Eliminate broken government programs--20% of all program

Source: Campaign plan: “Bold Solutions for Economic Prosperity” , Feb 3, 2008

More sunshine on the Working Group on Financial Markets

Q: If you kept the Working Group on Financial Markets, would you make sure we would see some sunlight and know what they’re doing and how they’re being involved in our markets?

A: Obviously we’d like to see more sunshine. But I as president, rely primarily on my secretary of the Treasury, on my Council of Economic Advisers, on the head of that. I would rely on the circle that I have developed over many years. I have a process of leadership that is sort of an inclusive one that I have developed.

Source: 2008 GOP debate in Boca Raton Florida , Jan 24, 2008

No signing statements: either sign or veto bills

Q: Under what circumstances, if any, would you sign a bill into law but also issue a signing statement reserving a constitutional right to bypass the law?

A: As President, I won’t have signing statements. I will either sign or veto any legislation that comes across my desk.

Source: Boston Globe questionnaire on Executive Power , Dec 20, 2007

Focus on homeland safety, restoring trust, and fiscal policy

Q: Your key focus areas?

A: We must make the country safe. This is a military, diplomatic, intelligence and cyberspace challenge. If we’re going to complete that laundry list, is restoring trust and confidence in government. There is none today. We have to fix Medicare. We have to stop this wasteful pork-barrel spending that has led to corruption in Washington. Of course we have to fix our borders. We have to sit down together and fix Medicare and Social Security.

Source: 2007 Des Moines Register Republican Debate , Dec 12, 2007

Authored line-item veto law; struck down by Supreme Court

McCain is the patron saint of lost causes. Aside from his controversial Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act [known as McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform], which finally squeaked through in 2002 after a quixotic, seven-year struggle, the bills he is most famous for all failed: the line-item veto that the Supreme Court struck down in 1998, the never-passed $1.10-a-pack tobacco tax he proposed the same year, and 2007’s comprehensive immigration reform debacle. Every year McCain stands up on the Senate floor to denounce line items of congressional pork; every year the budgets pass and the earmarks continue to increase. Rather than discourage him, setbacks and long odds put a noticeable spring in his step, while victory leaves him uncertain.
Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p. 9-10 , Oct 9, 2007

Keating Five mea culpa established openness to press

McCain first discovered the value of the media mea culpa in the wake of the Keating Five scandal, when, with his back against the wall and his hometown paper battering him on a daily basis, he said he “decided right then that not talking to reporters or sharply denying even the appearance of a problem wasn’t going to do me any good. I would henceforth accept every single request for an interview from any source, prominent or obscure, and answer every question as completely and straightforwardly as I could. I talked to the press constantly, ad infinitum, until their appetite for information from me was completely satisfied. It is a public relations strategy that I have followed to this day.“

Though there would be plenty of exceptions to this rule --various members of the Arizona press, and myself [Matt Welch], for example--the general strategy took root and was central to McCain’s christening by the national press as ”Washington’s last honest man.“

Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p. 74-75 , Oct 9, 2007

Skepticism in government can lead to chaos

On May 27, 1999, McCain expressed anxiety that the same faith in country that helped save and give meaning to his life was now threatened by "pervasive public cynicism" in the US government, "as dangerous in its way as war and depression have been in the past." What was once "healthy skepticism" springing from the ethos of "self-reliance" had now metastasized into alienation "that threatens our public institutions, our culture and, ultimately, our private happiness."
Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p. 79-80 , Oct 9, 2007

As usual, responsible for none of 309 earmarks in 2007

[The June 2007 Defense Appropriations Bill had 309] earmarks worth $5.6 billion tacked on by senators creating pork as they tried to bring jobs back home to their states. John McCain, as usual, was responsible for none of them. McCain said, "We can't do this earmarking and pork-barreling if we're ever going to be careful and serious stewards of the taxpayers' dollars."

Pork is one issue that bedevils defense budgeting, but the proper stewardship of the taxpayers' dollars also depends on the overall size and strategic priorities of the defense bill itself. So I asked McCain a follow-up question: "We now spend about roughly the same amount on defense as the rest of the world combined. Is that a healthy ratio, and if it's not, what would be a healthy ratio?"

"Oh, it's healthy," he responded. "We need a bigger Army, we need a bigger Marine corps. You look around the world--Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan--it's not going to be over for a long time."

Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p.154 , Oct 9, 2007

There’s only one president; V.P. sticks to official duties

Q: What authority would you delegate to the office of vice president? And should those authorities be more clearly defined through a constitutional amendment?

A: Having been considered for that post several times, I’ve thought a lot about that. The vice president really only has two duties. One is to cast a tie-breaking vote in the case of a tied vote in the Senate. And the other is to inquire daily as to the health of the president. I really would do what some presidents have done in the past. A vice president brings a certain area of expertise and talent. I would probably assign some of those areas, like telecommunications or some other important issues.

Q: So not as wide-ranging as Vice President Cheney had?

A: Look, I would be very careful that everybody understood that there’s only one president.

Source: 2007 GOP Iowa Straw Poll debate , Aug 5, 2007

OpEd: Led campaign finance reform because of Keating Five

When Democrats are asked to name a Republican they like, they think of McCain. He is refreshingly straightforward and un-partisan. Unlike George W. Bush, he is a real hero whose life story is one of genuine service and bravery. He came to Kerry's defense when his war record was attacked. He is largely responsible for campaign finance reform. He has carved out a role for himself in the Republican Party, as with the latest filibuster compromise, as someone who is not afraid to work across party lines. He stood up to the right in the 2000 campaign.

What Democrats point out about McCain: He's more conservative than you think he is. He's as anti-abortion as the next guy. He will be with them on the Supreme Court and vote for whoever Bush nominates. By the time the election rolls around, his conservative striped will be clear. The reason he led the charge on campaign finance reform was that he was one of the Keating Five.

Source: The Case for Hillary Clinton, by Susan Estrich, p.176-177 , Oct 17, 2005

McCain-Feingold is latest in line of 200 years of CFR

Money is the "mother's milk" of American politics. John McCain is the architect of the McCain-Feingold measure, which seeks to clean up campaign financing of national elections and reduce the flow of special interest money. This is a system under which most incumbent politicians and interest groups--ranging from the oil industry to labor unions to the religious right--flourished; any effort to change it is a threat.

The link between money and politics is pervasive throughout American history. Periodically, reforms clean up the worst offenses and then new loopholes and techniques are discovered; like any reform, campaign finance changes are an ongoing process.

The most contemporary version followed the Watergate scandals. The subsequent presidential elections were as clean as an in modern history. Then, aided by an inept Federal Elections Commission, soft, or unregulated, money started to creep into the system. It became a major source of funding and a narcotic for both parties.

Source: Profiles in Courage For Our Time, by Caroline Kennedy, p.251 , Oct 1, 2001

Infuriates fellow senators by battling pork-barrel spending

McCain infuriates many of his fellow senators with persistent battles against wasteful pork-barrel spending; examples abound, ranging from $14 million to study the aurora borealis to unnecessary military depots to a $350 million aircraft carrier, to be built in Pascagula, Mississippi, that the navy doesn't want. He reveals that a disproportionate number of these projects are located in Mississippi, courtesy of his rival, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, a prince of pork.

Russ Feingold is more diplomatic, although he's widely viewed as a holier-than-thou moralist. As part of the huge Watergate class of reformers reached Congress in 1975.

But without this intensity and conviction--and willingness to pay a price-- McCain-Feingold never would have gotten on the radar screen, much less passed the United States Senate. These two disparate politicians displayed exceptional courage.

Source: Profiles in Courage by Caroline Kennedy, p.255-256 , Oct 1, 2001

Reform called incumbent protection, but fought by incumbents

Some First Amendment proponents contend any ,imitation on spending and contributions is a violation of free speech. Some claim what is needed is more, not less, money in the system. Moreover, critics charge, McCain-Feingold would be an incumbent-protection act. If that were so, incumbents would have enacted it a long time ago.

McCain-Feingold would alter, not revolutionize, the connection between politics and money. But it would reduce the reliance on money in elections and minimize the huge advantage enjoyed by incumbents in a system that gives comparatively little challenges. That's why it produces such fury in the cloakrooms of both parties; several years ago Mitch McConnell, the head of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, and Bob Kerrey, his Democratic counterpart, both told their respective caucuses in the same week that McCain-Feingold would cost them the Senate. Both cannot be true, but both men believed it; in campaigns, money is a narcotic.

Source: Profiles in Courage by Caroline Kennedy, p.264-265 , Oct 1, 2001

Reform election system, and get rid of electors

Q: Do you think we’ll see election reform?

A: I do believe so. I think we’re going to have hearings. I don’t think we’re going to change the fundamental electoral system that requires three-fourths of the states and small states are not going to agree to being excluded from the process. But I do believe that we would eliminate this elector business. When I was elected to the Senate, the secretary of state certified the votes and sent it on. I think we could eliminate that “electoral portion” of it. But I would not change the system because I think small states need to have representation.

Q: How about standard kind of ballots?

A: [Congress should] give funds to the poorer counties that can’t afford or have a very low priority on their machines. Out in California they had a touch screen technology, which they say works very well. So I think we in Congress can help these less wealthy areas of the country update and modernize their technology. I think we could do that and should.

Source: McCain interview on CNN’s “Larry King Live” , Nov 29, 2000

2000: Theme "reformer & outsider" attacked as Senate insider

McCain's stance as an anti-Washington outsider was ideally suited to the early primary of N.H. but also to challenging the Clinton-Gore administration.

The Bush team had asked what McCain had actually accomplished in Washington. What were his so-called reforms? On key issues, they argued, McCain had been consistently shot down. McCain had failed to persuade Congress to pass either tobacco legislation or campaign finance reform.

Second, the Bush campaign attacked McCain's claim to outsider status. Reminding voters that McCain was far more the Washington insider than he suggested, Bush took to calling the senator "Chairman McCain." Of course, McCain had indirectly given them this issue, by overplaying his outsider status.

Third, Bush stole McCain's message, in effect, calling himself a "reformer with results."

Most Republican primary voters got exactly what they wanted: NOT reform but restoration, albeit one with a patina of reformist veneer to make it palatable.

Source: John McCain: An Essay, by John Karaagac, p.223-225 , Sep 20, 2000

Early Congressional races included large war chests

Early in his career, McCain would have struck one as an unlikely advocate for changing the campaign finance laws. As a dark horse in the 1982 House primary, McCain had amassed a huge war chest, which allowed him to outspend more prominent candidates in a media blitz. In 1986, he used his even bigger war chest to help scare off A-list challengers, such as then-Governor Bruce Babbitt, in the bid to assume Barry Goldwater's Senate seat.

Though the McCain-Feingold proposals have gone through multiple incarnations, the gist of the reform legislation touched on accepting voluntary spending limits, which differ from state to state, in exchange for free broadcast time and other concessions. A second component has involved banning so-called "soft money," that is, money given, not to the candidates outright, but for party-building purposes. "Soft money" is, in fact, a camouflaged donation to candidates, a way of evading the campaign finance laws.

Source: John McCain: An Essay, by John Karaagac, p.226-227 , Sep 20, 2000

McCain-Feingold reforms never appealed to GOP base

Groups as diverse as the American Civil Liberties Union (on the left) ad the Christian Coalition (on the right) have opposed McCain-Feingold as an interference on free speech and issue advocacy.

Many Republicans have opposed McCain-Feingold because it would constrain their ability to rake in money from corporate donors. Quite simply, Republicans currently have a fund-raising edge over Democrats. By contrast, the Democrats, with the support of organized labor, are better organized at the grass-roots level, which perhaps makes them objectively less dependent upon, but in reality no less addicted to, "soft money." Though less conspicuous, Democrats have discreetly opposed any reform of the campaign finance laws for much the same reasons as Republicans have. Nonetheless, because they are a minority party within Congress (and thus have less to lose from opposing the status quo), Democrats have tended to support reform.

Source: John McCain: An Essay, by John Karaagac, p.226-227 , Sep 20, 2000

Reform focus endears him to many, but alienates GOP insiders

Although we think of reform as utilitarian and operational, the strongest impetus is a sense of moral outrage against the rottenness or incompetence of the political process. Ultimately McCain and other campaign finance reform stalwarts have proved unabl to channel the growing cynicism of the policies of both parties to their advantage.

The issue of campaign finance reform has made McCain the darling of many who believed that money has indeed corrupted the political process; it also has, however, made him something of a persona non grata among those within his own party who rather like the status quo.

McCain has not reassured his GOP fellow travelers how such reform would work to their mutual advantage. He has not convincingly suggested how it would be tactically shrewd for conservatives to get ahead on the issue. In short, he has not argued the case on its conservative merits. Instead, McCain has framed the issue in terms that played to his maverick strengths but also to his maverick weaknesses.

Source: John McCain: An Essay, by John Karaagac, p.228-229 , Sep 20, 2000

Reform was a lonely message in 2000

McCain's political voice has always seemed one step ahead of his actual position, which is perhaps the penalty of anyone with a vision. He is thus open to assault from those whose positions veer little from the predictable fault lines.

Ultimately, reform is a complicated process of watering down strident ideas, thereby bringing change, but perhaps not too much.

What is perhaps most intriguing about McCain 2000 was the loneliness of his message. He has ventured down a public road that politicians, particularly senators, tend not to take, preferring instead the technical aspects of brokered deals. McCain possesses Clinton's policy knowledge but matches it to Reagan's conviction and credibility and, in the politics of reform, credibility is the most important asset. What is certain is that change will take place. The real question concerns the direction of change, and just how much influence McCain will have. And that is a chapter that remains to be written.

Source: John McCain: An Essay, by John Karaagac, p.241-242 , Sep 20, 2000

No term limits; they throw away the good with the bad

McCain hewed to his signature theme of campaign finance overhaul. When asked whether he supported term limits, he objected, “My problem is that we throw out the good people as well as the bad.” But he said that overhauling the campaign finance system would have an effect similar to a term limit’s by ending the “the incumbency protection racket.”
Source: New York Times, p. A17 , Jan 25, 2000

Influence peddling helps the Chinese Army

McCain presents himself as an independent voice for reform of the political system, and places his campaign finance ideas at the fore of his presidential bid. He regularly calls the current system “an elaborate influence-peddling scheme.” The McCain campaign contends that “these lobbyists need to protect their self-interest so much that they’re willing to allow the Chinese Army to continue to make contributions to our political system,” according to McCain’s press secretary.
Source: Jill Zuckman, Boston Globe, p. A3 , Sep 20, 1999

Politicans poll, posture, & influence-peddle

“We have squandered the public trust. We have placed our personal and partisan interest before the national interest, earning the public’s contempt for our poll-driven policies, our phony posturing, the lies we call spin and the damage control we substitute for progress. And we defend a campaign finance system that is nothing less than an elaborate influence-peddling scheme in which both parties conspire to stay in office by selling the country to the highest bidder,” McCain said.
Source: CNN AllPolitics , Jun 30, 1999

Supports Line-Item Veto and Balanced Budget

McCain led the ten-year fight to enact the Line-Item Veto in 1996 as a tool for the President to curb wasteful congressional spending, and continues to work to restore this important budget control mechanism. [McCain also] supported the 1997 Balanced Budget and Taxpayer Relief Acts.
Source: www.mccain2000.com/ “Position Papers” 5/24/99 , May 24, 1999

Supports term limits on Congress

McCain supports amending the Constitution to limit the number of terms which members of Congress can serve.
Source: 1998 National Political Awareness Test , Jul 2, 1998


John McCain on Campaign Finance Reform

Alleged affair with lobbyist hurt image as reformer

On Feb. 20, the Vicky Iseman story broke in The NY Times, contending that, in 1999, some of McCain's aides had confronted him over an alleged affair with Iseman, and that McCain had "acknowledged behaving inappropriately and pledged to keep his distance from her.

Iseman, a lobbyist, had been bragging to others that she had professional sway over McCain, which threatened the senator's image as a reformer. John was sure the campaign was over. That the story wasn't politically survivable.

The next morning, John met the press. He answered many questions with a simple yes or no. He said that Iseman was a friend, concluding, "This whole story is based on anonymous sources...I'm very disappointed in that." Although The Washington Post and Newsweek promptly ran their own similar anonymously sourced versions of the Iseman tale, the stories disappeared without a trace. The unequivocal denials of McCain & Iseman, and the criticism of the "Times" for venturing into tabloid territory, defused the story.

Source: Game Change, by Heilemann & Halpern, p.314-316 , Jan 11, 2010

5-year struggle for CFR portrayed in press as epic tale

Campaign finance reform may seem like a prosaic issue, yet it served as the defining policy issue of not only McCain's 2000 race but his entire career.

The McCain-Feingold bill was introduced in 1997, along with companion legislation in the House of Representatives. The main feature of the bill was a ban on "soft money"--the unlimited donations to political parties that had been legal up until the bill's passage.

The ensuing five years would see fits and starts, ups and downs, and the eventual passage of the bill into law with President Bush's signature in 2002. During that time an extraordinary amount of media coverage was given to the bill and the cause of campaign finance reform more broadly, most of it positive.

Every epic tale needs a hero, and so McCain was the hero of the campaign finance reform narrative. The story the press told was about a lonely man fighting overwhelming odds, waging a noble campaign to clean up the system, with only perseverance and justice on his side.

Source: Free Ride, by David Brock and Paul Waldman, p. 21-22 , Mar 25, 2008

CFR cut soft money & increased hard money; both helped GOP

Campaign finance reform had the side benefit of helping the Republican Party and hurting the Democrats. No one should believe for a moment that opposing most Republicans on campaign finance reform constituted any risk to John McCain's personal ambitions.

CFR, or the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, banned "soft money"--individuals and corporations could skirt contribution limits by giving large donations to the parties (sometimes in amounts running into the millions) had been a complaint of critics for some time.

In sum, McCain's great triumph of maverick rebellion and bipartisanship:

  1. damaged the Democratic Party by eliminating the one fund-raising area, soft money, in which they had an advantage over Republicans;
  2. allowed wealthy donors, most of whom are Republicans, to give more money to Republican candidates; and
  3. allowed the total amount of special interest money pouring into political campaigns to increase, not decrease.
Source: Free Ride, by David Brock and Paul Waldman, p. 22&27 , Mar 25, 2008

1993: Proposed barring campaign funds for personal expenses

In 1992, McCain was one of three Republican senators to vote for Democratic campaign finance reform legislation (all the Senate Democrats except two voted in favor). The bill called for the provision of taxpayer funds and other incentives to urge candidates to abide by voluntary spending limits; it was vetoed by then-president George H. W. Bush, a veto that the Senate failed to override. In 1993, McCain again cast himself in the role of party rebel in the campaign finance debate. In deliberation over an identical measure to the one Bush had vetoed in 1992, McCain proposed amendments that caught the attention of the media. McCain offered one amendment that barred candidates from using campaign money for personal expenses such as vacations, mortgage payments, and clothing purchases, among others. Another amendment pushed for the campaign reforms, if enacted, to go into effect in 1994 instead of 1996, as originally proposed.
Source: Free Ride, by David Brock and Paul Waldman, p. 60 , Mar 25, 2008

No litmus test for Supreme Court nominees on McCain-Feingold

Q: Will you appoint conservative Supreme Court justices even if you have reason to believe that they might vote to overturn McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform?

A: I was very aware of the opinion of Justices Roberts and Alito, and I was one who fought hard for the confirmation of both of them. First of all, I wouldn’t impose any litmus test. That would be totally inappropriate. But second of all, I will appoint justices such as the ones I’ve strongly supported and gotten through the Senate, with the help of many others or help along with others, only those who strictly interpret the Constitution and do not legislate from the bench.

Q: Even if they might vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade and also McCain-Feingold?

A: Look, you cannot impose litmus tests. If you have justices that have a clear conservative, then you don’t have to worry about what their decisions will be, because it’s pretty obvious that people who strictly interpret the Constitution are worthy of our confidence.

Source: 2008 Fox News interview: “Choosing the President” series , Feb 3, 2008

The 527s need to be eliminated

Q: Let’s talk about campaign finance preform, because for a lot of conservatives, I think that’s your original sin, if you will. Romney says that it’s restricted free speech and, worst of all, it hasn’t worked because billionaire liberals give millions of dollars to these so-called independent 527 groups. Even Fred Thompson, who was one of your main co-sponsors back in 2002, now says it was a mistake.

A: Well, I’m grateful for Fred’s support on that. It was McCain-Feingold-Thompson and we couldn’t have done it without him, so I’m very appreciative of his support.

Q: Yes, that was five years ago. He’s not saying that now.

A: Look, there’s millions of more small donors. The 527s need to be eliminated. But soft money was corrupting. If anybody thinks that we need more special interest money in Washington, I’d like to meet them.

Q: So, bottom line, if you had it all to do over again, would you still go for McCain-Feingold?

A: Absolutely. You’ve seen the corruption in Washington.

Source: FOX News Sunday, 2007 presidential interviews , Oct 21, 2007

OpEd: McCain-Feingold chilled grassroots political speech

Political ads from outside groups, McCain told the Supreme Court when it was first weighing the constitutionality of McCain-Feingold, “are direct, blatant attacks on the candidates. We don’t think that’s right.” He clearly found the attack-ads of citizens to be repugnant. As syndicated columnist George Will, a longtime opponent of campaign-finance reform on constitutional grounds, put it, “McCain-Feingold’s actual purpose is to protect politicians from speech that annoys them.”

In choosing a side, journalists missed not only the story of McCain-Feingold’s chilling effects on grassroots political activities, but also of McCain’s flippant attitude toward the Constitution. McCain no longer held the Bill of Rights as such an immovable object. “I would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected, that has become corrupt,” he told syndicated radio host Don Imus. “If I had my choice, I’d rather have the clean government.”

Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p. 93-95 , Oct 9, 2007

527s are clearly illegal; reform intended for small donors

Some say McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform is an assault on free speech. When you see soft money that’s now banned from going to the parties instead going to these 527s, which are even less accountable than the parties were, can you honestly say that McCain-Feingold is working?

A: We’ve strengthened the parties. There’s millions more small donors. We have taken soft money, which was rampant in Washington, out of the game. The 527s are a violation of the 1974 law. The 527s are clearly illegal. It’s not a problem with law. It’s a problem with the FEC who will not enforce the law. So, yeah, we made significant progress, absolutely, and I’m proud of a lot of the results of this. I lived in the environment where a powerful committee chairman would call and say, “I need a check for seven figures from you, and by the way, your bill is up before my committee next week.” That was routine operation in Washington, and we’re still seeing manifestations of this kind of corruption.

Source: Fox News Sunday: 2007 “Choosing the President” interviews , Apr 2, 2007

Supported then opposed transparency in grassroots reporting

Q: You supported legislation which would demand that organizations provide their fundraising lists when they were doing grassroots lobbying. You were very much in favor of that kind of transparency, and then you voted against it on the floor. Why?

A: Over a year ago, I had changed my position on this issue because I believe that it was too big a bite to take. I believe that there’s ambiguities concerning it, and so I believe that it was better to move forward with the reforms that we can make.

Q: But it also helps you politically.

A: I don’t know how it helps me politically.

Q: In currying favor with conservative groups that were opposed to your original legislation.

A: There are as many liberal groups who were opposed to the legislation as well. Some of these grassroots organizations are very legitimate organizations. As we found out during the Abramoff investigations, some are not. We should be able to find out and discriminate between the two.

Source: Meet the Press: 2007 “Meet the Candidates” series , Jan 21, 2007

Profile in Courage award for preserving integrity of system

In "Profiles in Courage", my father told the stories of eight senators who acted on principle and in the national interest, even though it put their own political careers at risk. The John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award is presented annually to an elected official who carries on this tradition. We sought to honor politicians like those in the original book, whose singular acts of courage in protecting the national interest put their own career at risk.Some of today's most difficult conflicts revolve around those who would bend the system to serve their own ends. Senators John McCain and Russell Feingold were willing to risk their careers to preserve the integrity of our system.
Source: Profiles In Courage For Our Time, by Caroline Kennedy , Apr 30, 2003

Campaign finance reform needed to restore faith in politics

In Jan. 2001, McCain was revved up for the next round in the battle he had been waging for many years to reform the nation’s campaign finance laws. For McCain, campaign finance reform was about a broader ethic. As he demonstrated in his campaign for the Republican nomination in 2000, he sees it as essential to restoring the public’s faith in politics, and also to attracting young people into politics and government service. For him, it has much to do with the very definition of the country, the workability of the democratic idea.

Now, as he undertook his seventh year of leading the effort to reform the campaign finance system, there were reasons for optimism. The Democrats had picked up four Senate seats in the previous election, the new Democratic senators providing a presumed four more votes for reform, and the Senate was now divided 50-50. McCain’s effort to enact reform of the campaign finance system had met with defeat in the Senate five times in the past six years.

Source: Citizen McCain, by Elizabeth Drew, first chapter , May 7, 2002

Finance reform will prevail if we have the votes & the guts

In 2001, Tom Daschle, the Senate Democratic leader, had already told McCain that the Democrats would stick with him at least on the early procedural issues. McCain said, “All it boils down to is if we have the votes and the guts, we’ll prevail.”

McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign struck a chord when he told people he would “shake things up in Washington.” Public disgust with the role of money in our political system was rising, and he gave it voice.

The amount of money spent in a presidentia election had grown to $2.75 billion in the 2000 election. The amounts in themselves, though quite large, were less significant than what they reflected: the ever-increasing time that the politicians had to spend raising the money, the access that came with accepting that money, especially the six- or seven-figure amounts in “soft money”. Senators also were becoming increasingly alarmed at the number of ads by outside groups, some of mysterious origin, that could come at them from any direction.

Source: Citizen McCain, by Elizabeth Drew, first chapter , May 7, 2002

Supported non-severability as key component of CFR

The issue that worried McCain the most was non-severability: if the bill wasn’t made indivisible, a court could throw out the provision regulating electioneering ads and leave the soft money ban in place, with the result that large amounts of money would flow into the ads.

The non-severability amendment has been confined to the two main sections of the bill--the soft-money ban and the limits on electioneering ads would be severable--in the hope of attracting more votes. Now, not any little thing could bring down the whole law. Members of both parties are worried about ads, especially if the soft-money ban stands and the restrictions on ads don’t.

Then McCain speaks: “We’re now facing perhaps the last major hurdle,” he says. “If you vote for this amendment you are voting for soft money. That’s really what this debate is about.”

In the end, the vote isn’t even close. The Senate voted 57-43 against non-severability, with twelve Republicans voting with McCain.

Source: Citizen McCain, by Elizabeth Drew, p. 59-63 , May 7, 2002

CFR passes Senate; focus on House, not court challenges

The Senate is expected to pass a bill to ban unlimited contributions to political parties, a practice known as “soft money.” Supporters, including Senate sponsors John McCain, R-AZ, and Russ Feingold, D-WI, say the bill will break large donors’ power over lawmakers. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-KY, and other opponents argue it violates the right of free speech.

In addition to banning soft money, it would raise the amount of direct contributions for candidates from $1,000 to $2,000, beef up disclosure requirements and restrict advertising by independent groups. McCain said he would worry about a court challenge when it comes. First, he said, he will focus on getting the bill through the House of Representatives.

Republicans left open the possibility that McCain would not even be named to the conference committee [which will work on the bill after House approval]. Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-NE, said McCain’s views on campaign finance reform did not square with those of most of his GOP colleagues.

Source: CNN.com , Apr 2, 2001

Differentiate “electioneering” from real issue ads

The McCain-Feingold bill poses fundamental free-speech questions that will probably have to be resolved by the Supreme Court. The most vulnerable provision bars unions and corporations from buying “issue advertising.” Supporters say that the ads are a sham-that they are not intended merely to inform citizens about issues but rather to influence the outcome of elections. But the Supreme Court has said issue ads are a form of political expression that must be left untouched.

So the bill creates a new category, “electioneering communications,” defined as broadcast ads that refer to specific candidates, within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election. Interest groups would be allowed to air issue ads, if paid for with individual contributions. “There will be questions about issue ads,” McCain said, “but Supreme Court justices do read newspapers & watch TV. It would be hard to argue from a logical standpoint that the sham ads are not intended to affect the election of candidates.

Source: Charles Lane, Washington Post, Page A04 , Mar 19, 2001

Clearer rules about campaign finance; no soft money

Source: Press Release, “Campaign Finance” , Jan 22, 2001

Replace battle of bucks with battle of ideas

Unless we restore the people’s sovereignty over government, unless we reform our public institutions to meet the demands of a new, we will squander our destiny. Toward that end, I have called for the reform of campaign finance practices that have sacrificed our principles to the demands of big money special interests. I have spoken against forces that have turned politics into a battle of bucks instead of a battle of ideas. And for that I have been accused of disloyalty to my party.
Source: Speech in Virginia Beach, VA , Feb 28, 2000

Fight iron triangle: special interests, money, & legislation

Q: Bush said he’s still a reformer, he’s still an outsider, [but elected officials] support him because they like him.
A: It’s fair to say that I did not win Miss Congeniality in the US Senate this year. I have to admit that to you.
Q: You’re not popular in the Senate.
A: No, because I’ve taken on the iron triangle: special interests, money and legislation, which we’ve been gridlocked by in Washington, DC. We’ve taken the government away from the people. Young people are being turned off in droves. I’ve been involved [with the] lobbying ban, gift ban, line-item veto. I’ve attacked pork barrel spending and wasteful spending, which is now worse than it’s ever been, and I didn’t make a lot of friends, because I point out these spendings. And I’ll fight for reform until the last breath I draw so that we can get the American people back connected with their government. I’m trying to change this party, to bring it into the 21st century as a reform party in the tradition of Theodore Roosevelt.
Source: GOP Debate on the Larry King Show , Feb 15, 2000

Campaign reform that’s best for country, not for GOP

BUSH [to Hatch]: I believe the McCain Feingold bill will hurt the Republican Party and hurt conservative causes.

HATCH: [The] bill is unconstitutional. [It] leaves all the first amendment rights for the public interest groups to speak and do whatever they want to and raise any kind of moneys they want to and takes away the first amendment rights from the two political parties. Have you ever wondered why all the Democrats love McCain-Feingold and hardly any Republicans do?

MCCAIN: I’ve always thought that what’s best for the country is best for the party. You are defending an illegal system. You are defending a system that has caused the debasement of every institution of government and it’s got to be stopped. It is now legal for a Chinese-army-owned corporation to give unlimited amounts of money to an American political campaign. We’re awash in it.

Source: Republican Debate in West Columbia, SC , Jan 7, 2000

Take away soft money & “hurt the unions bad”

BUSH [to McCain]: Your call for campaign finance reform will hurt conservatives & the Republican Party.

McCAIN: The unions carry millions of dollars in checks and soft money down to the Democratic National Committee. Trial lawyers do the same thing. We’ll hurt the unions bad if we take away their soft money. But what you’re saying is that we should continue what happened in 1996. That’s disgraceful. Chinese & Indonesian money came in to the campaign. We’ll never know about the breaches of security.

Source: Republican Debate in Durham, NH , Jan 6, 2000

Money corrupts politics, and soft money corrupts absolutely

Q: Do you support a complete public funding of campaigns?

A: I don’t believe in public financing because I don’t think my tax dollars should be used to fund a person’s campaign that I philosophically disagree with... I think soft money is the primary evil. I believe that there’s going to come a time when people will say ‘this system is broken.’... It’s now legal in America for a Chinese Army-owned corporation with a subsidiary in the U.S. to give unlimited amounts of money to an American campaign.

Source: Joint interview with Bradley & McCain , Dec 16, 1999

Campaign Finance: ban both labor union & corporate donations

McCain said that unlimited “soft money” contributions by businesses to political parties give corporations an undue influence over legislation. What is needed is comprehensive finance reform: “I would support no campaign finance reform that did not require that every union member give their permission before the union spends money on politics. That’s the good news. The bad news is I would also require that every stockholder give their permission” before businesses could make political contributions
Source: CNN.com , May 10, 1999


John McCain on Earmarks & Pork

Authorized earmarks OK; unauthorized earmarks not

[There is an] escalating tend toward greater and greater Presidential authority through bureaucratic agencies. In a word: earmarks.

During the appropriations process, Congress may designate, through an earmark, that a certain amount of the funds available must be spent on a particular program or issue. These earmarks or appropriations are not additional funds added to the federal budget.

Senator John McCain and other conservatives have joined me in a solution to the earmark issue. We have introduced legislation to redefine "earmarks" as "an appropriation that has not been authorized." That should solve the Congressional earmark problem.

As Senator McCain stated on the floor, "Some of those earmarks are worthy. If they are worthy then they should be authorized." He also said, "You've got to get the definition of an earmark: that is, an unauthorized appropriation."

Source: The Greatest Hoax, by James Inhofe, p.202 , Feb 28, 2012

Would fight for line-item veto, and veto pork

Q: This year’s deficit will reach $455 billion. Won’t some programs you are proposing have to be eliminated?

McCAIN: I would have an across-the-board spending freeze. I know how to save billions of dollars in defense spending. One would be the marketing assistance program. Another one would be subsidies for ethanol. I would fight for a line-item veto, and I would certainly veto every earmark pork-barrel bill.

OBAMA: Every dollar I’ve proposed, I’ve proposed an additional cut hat it matches. To give an example, we spend $15 billion a year on subsidies to insurance companies. It doesn’t help seniors get better. It’s a giveaway. I want to go through the federal budget line by line, programs that don’t work, we cut. Programs we need, we should make them work better. Once we get through this economic crisis, we’re going to have to embrace a culture of responsibility, all of us, corporations, the federal government, and individuals who may be living beyond their means

Source: 2008 third presidential debate against Barack Obama , Oct 15, 2008

We need a reformer because system in Washington is broken

Q: How can we trust either of you with our money when both parties got us into this global economic crisis?

OBAMA: Most of the people here, you’ve got a family budget. If less money is coming in, you end up making cuts. That’s not what happens in Washington.

McCAIN: I can see why you feel that cynicism and mistrust, because the system in Washington is broken. And I have been a consistent reformer. I have advocated and taken on the special interests, whether they be the big money people by reaching across the aisle and working with Sen. Russ Feingold [D-Wisconsin] on campaign finance reform, whether it being a variety of other issues, working with Sen. Lieberman on trying to address climate change. I have a clear record of bipartisanship. The situation today cries out for bipartisanship. Sen. Obama has never taken on his leaders of his party on a single issue. And we need to reform. And so let’s look at our records as well as our rhetoric.

Source: 2008 second presidential debate against Barack Obama , Oct 7, 2008

I fought earmarks even in defense spending

I’m going to ask the American people to understand that there are some programs that we may have to eliminate. I first proposed a long time ago that we would have to examine every agency of government. And we’re going to have to eliminate those that aren’t working.

I know a lot of them that aren’t working. One of them is in defense spending, because I’ve taken on some of the defense contractors. I saved the taxpayers $6.8 billion in a deal for an Air Force tanker that was done in a corrupt fashion.

I believe that we have to eliminate the earmarks. And sometimes those projects that are really good projects, will have to be eliminated, as well. And they’ll have to undergo the same scrutiny that all projects should in competition with others.

So we’re going to have to tell the American people that spending is going to have to be cut. And I recommend a spending freeze--except for defense, Veterans Affairs, and some other vital programs--we’ll just have to have across-the-board freeze

Source: 2008 second presidential debate against Barack Obama , Oct 7, 2008

FactCheck: Killed corrupt $6.8B contract, but reinstated it

McCain repeated a questionable boast when he said, “I’ve taken on some of the defense contractors. I saved the taxpayers $6.8 billion in a deal for an Air Force tanker that was done in a corrupt fashion.”

There is more to the story. McCain certainly did lead a fight to kill the contract, and the effort ended in prison sentences for defense contractors. The contract is still up in the air, however, and questions have been raised about the role McCain played in helping a Boeing rival secure the new contract.

After the original Boeing contract to supply refueling airliners was nixed in 2003, the bidding process was reopened. And in early 2007, Boeing rival EADS/Airbus won the bid the second time around. But Boeing filed a protest. The New York Times reported that “McCain’s top advisers were lobbyists for EADS. And Mr. McCain had written to the Defense Department, urging it to ignore a trade dispute between the United States and Europe over whether Airbus received improper subsidies.”

Source: FactCheck.org on 2008 second presidential debate , Oct 7, 2008

Get earmarks under control to deal with the financial crisis

Q: Are there fundamental differences between your approach and Obama’s approach to what you would do as president to lead this country out of the financial crisis?

A: The first thing we have to do is get spending under control in Washington. We have no presided over the largest increase in the size of government since the Great Society. We Republicans came to power to change government and government changed us. The worst symptom of this disease is what Sen. Coburn calls “earmarking as a gateway drug,” because it’s a gateway to out-of-control spending and corruption. We have former members of Congress now residing in federal prison because of the evils of this earmarking and pork-barrel spending. We spent $3 million to study the DNA of bears in Montana It was $3 million of our taxpayers’ money and it has got to be brought under control. As president, I’ve got a pen and I’m going to veto every single spending bill that comes across my desk. I will make them famous. You will know their names.

Source: 2008 first presidential debate, Obama vs. McCain , Sep 26, 2008

Obama requested for $932M of pork projects; I fought pork

OBAMA: Let’s be clear: earmarks account for $18 billion in last year’s budget. McCain is proposing $300 billion in tax cuts to some of the wealthiest corporations & individuals in the country. Now $18 billion is important; but $300 billion is really important.

McCAIN: Obama suspended requests for pork barrel projects after he was running for president. He didn’t happen to see that light there in the first three years as a member of the US Senate. $932 million in requests maybe to Obama is not a lo of money. It’s only $18 billion. Do you know it’s tripled in the last five years? Do you know it’s gone completely out of control, to the point where it corrupts people? It corrupts people. That’s why we have people under federal indictment and charges. It’s a system that’s got to be cleaned up. I have fought against it. I was called the sheriff by one of the senior members of the Appropriations Committee. I didn’t win Miss Congeniality in the US Senate.

Source: 2008 first presidential debate, Obama vs. McCain , Sep 26, 2008

FactCheck: Earmarks have gone down in last 5 years

McCain was way off the mark when he said that earmarks in federal appropriations bills had tripled in the last five years. McCain said, “I hear this all the time. ‘It’s only $18 billion.’ Do you know that it’s tripled in the last five years?”

In fact, earmarks have actually gone down. According to Citizens Against Government Waste, there was $22.5 billion worth of earmark spending in 2003. By 2008, that figure had come down to $17.2 billion. That’s a decrease of 24%.

Taxpayers for Common Sense, another watchdog group, said in 2008 that “Congress has cut earmarks by 23% from the record 2005 levels,” according to its analysis.

And while we’re on the subject of earmarks, McCain repeated a misleading line, claiming, “We spent $3 million to study the DNA of bears in Montana.” The study in question was done by the US Geological Survey. McCain voted for the bill that made appropriations for the study. He did propose some changes to the bill, but none that nixed the bear funding.

Source: FactCheck.org on 2008 first Presidential debate , Sep 26, 2008

Earmarks are terrible and pernicious; Palin learned that

Q: On earmarks. Palin got $27 million in earmarks for her small town. You have talked about them in pernicious terms that you campaign. So why are they OK for them?

A: And then she learned that earmarks are bad. I know lots of people that are converts And then when she became governor, she said, “No more for my state.” She said, “We don’t want the ‘Bridge to Nowhere.’” She, of course, understood, over time, how terrible and pernicious these earmarks are and how great an evil they are.

Source: ABC News: 2008 election interview with Charlie Gibson , Sep 3, 2008

FactCheck: $35B in pork meant $484 per child, not $1000

McCain chose his comparisons unwisely when discussing government pork, saying, “The president signed into law, two years in a row, pork barrel-laden bills, $35 billion worth of pork. We could have given a $1,000 tax credit for every child in America for that $35 billion. Instead we chose a bridge to nowhere.”

It’s not clear where McCain is getting the $35 billion figure. But that’s more pork than the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste has diagnosed in the budget for any one year of the Bush presidency: The highest amount the group has calculated is $29 billion in 2006. Perhaps McCain meant $35 billion in two years: the smallest two-year sum was $38.6 billion in 2001 and 2002.

Even if we assume $35 billion in pork, however, McCain mus be defining “child” rather narrowly. According to the 2000 Census, there are about 72 million people under the age of 18, which would come to about $484 each. To apportion $35 billion in $1000 chunks, you’d have to leave out some elementary-schoolers.

Source: FactCheck.org on 2008 GOP debate in Boca Raton Florida , Jan 24, 2008

I’m “the sheriff”, not Miss Congeniality, about pork bills

As president, I know how to stop the spending. I won’t let another pork-barrel earmark spending bill cross my desk without vetoing it, & I’ll make the authors of it famous. I saved the taxpayers $6 billion on a bogus tanker deal. I’m called “the sheriff” by my friends in the Senate who are the appropriators, and I didn’t win Miss Congeniality. And as president, I won’t win Miss Congeniality, either. I’ll stop the outrageous spending, and that’ll be the best thing that can happen to America’s economy.
Source: 2008 GOP debate in S.C. sponsored by Fox News , Jan 10, 2008

FactCheck: Claim of “24 years with no earmarks” mostly true

McCain said, “I’m proud to tell you, in 24 years as a member of Congress, I have never asked for nor received a single earmark or pork barrel project for my state.”

McCain has certainly made a crusade out of attacking “earmarks,” and watchdog groups don’t know of any instance in which McCain has asked for an earmark. But here’s what rivals point to:

Source: FactCheck.org on 2008 Fox News NH Republican primary debate , Jan 6, 2008

Close corporate loopholes; veto pork-barrel spending

McCAIN [to Bush]: Last November there was an incredible bill passed full of earmarked pork barrel spending. They spent the then $14 billion surplus that was supposed to be there for this year. And you said you supported that bill. I voted against it; said as president I would veto it and saw it as one of the most egregious practices. Tell me, what corporate loopholes would you close and what spending cuts would you make?

BUSH: If I’m the president and you’re a Senator, you can come in my office and you can outline all the different corporate loopholes you think are wrong. And we can pick and choose. But what I’m doing, John, is I’m selling my tax cut plan without claiming I’m going to close some kind of corporate loophole. Your plan uses so-called corporate loopholes to pay for it. I used cash to pay for it. And if the money stays in Washington -- my problem with your plan is that it’s going to be spent on bigger government.

Source: (X-ref to Bush) GOP Debate in Manchester NH , Jan 26, 2000

Drain the big money swamp to kill lobbyist mosquitoes

FORBES [to McCain]: Passing laws against lobbyists is sort of like passing laws against mosquitoes. Washington attracts mosquitoes the way swamps attract mosquitoes. Special interests go there. Don’t we need to drain the swamp first to get the mosquitoes out of the way. And don’t we have to get rid of the tax code first?

McCAIN: The fact is if you want to drain the swamp, you take the big money away from the big-time K Street lobbyists and that way they lose their power and their influence. Look, anybody who wants the status quo in Washington, they don’t want John McCain. Because there ain’t going to be the status quo when I’m president of the United States. You take away the big money, you’re going to take away their power and you’re going to break that iron triangle of lobbyists, big money and influence over the legislative process which has so badly embarrassed so many of us and it is the gateway to draining the swamp.

Source: (cross-ref. from Forbes) Phoenix Arizona GOP Debate , Dec 7, 1999

End sugar subsidy; corporate welfare at its worst

Continuing his effort to end federal handouts to special interest groups, McCain today [proposed to end] programs that benefit the sugar industry estimated to cost taxpayers over $130 million a year. From McCain’s floor statement: “The federal government is burdened with an unnecessary and unprofitable loan program for big sugar producers and enforcing mandated import quotas on foreign sugar. The sugar program is big government and corporate welfare at its worst.”
Source: Press Release: “Halt Sugar Subsidies” , Aug 4, 1999


John McCain on Voting Record

Gets legislation passed despite lack of congeniality

Q: You have described yourself frequently as the also-ran in the Senate Miss Congeniality Contest, but nothing can happen with the Congress unless the president has the power to persuade.
A: Look, I get along with them, 234 pieces of legislation have borne my name. I’m proud of many major pieces of legislation. My committee churns out more legislation than any other. I’m very proud of my record and the work that I’ve done with all of my colleagues. And if I have a mandate they’re going to follow.
Source: GOP debate in Los Angeles , Mar 2, 2000

Voted NO on Congressional pay raise.

Congressional Summary:
    Makes appropriations to the Senate for FY2010 for:
  1. expense allowances;
  2. representation allowances for the Majority and Minority Leaders;
  3. salaries of specified officers, employees, and committees (including the Committee on Appropriations);
  4. agency contributions for employee benefits;
  5. inquiries and investigations;
  6. the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control;
  7. the Offices of the Secretary and of the Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper of the Senate;
  8. miscellaneous items;
  9. the Senators' Official Personnel and Office Expense Account; and
  10. official mail costs.
Amends the Legislative Branch Appropriation Act of 1968 to increase by $50,000 the gross compensation paid all employees in the office of a Senator. Increases by $96,000 per year the aggregate amount authorized for the offices of the Majority and Minority Whip.

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D, FL-20): We, as Members of Congress, have responsibility not just for the institution, but for the staff that work for this institution, and to preserve the facilities that help support this institution. We have endeavored to do that responsibly, and I believe we have accomplished that goal.

Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. SCALISE (R, LA-1): It's a sad day when someone attempts to cut spending in a bill that grows government by the size of 7%, and it's not allowed to be debated on this House floor. Some of their Members actually used the term "nonsense" and "foolishness" when describing our amendments to cut spending; they call that a delaying tactic. Well, I think Americans all across this country want more of those types of delaying tactics to slow down this runaway train of massive Federal spending. Every dollar we spend from today all the way through the end of this year is borrowed money. We don't have that money. We need to control what we're spending.

Reference: Legislative Branch Appropriations Act; Bill HR2918&S1294 ; vote number 2009-S217 on Jul 6, 2009

Voted NO on providing a US House seat for the District of Columbia.

Congressional Summary:

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Sen. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT): I am cosponsoring the legislation to provide a House seat for DC and an additional House seat for Utah. Representation and suffrage are so central to the American system of self-government that America's founders warned that limiting suffrage would risk another revolution and could prevent ratification of the Constitution. The Supreme Court held in 1820 that Congress' legislative authority over DC allows taxation of DC. Do opponents of giving DC a House seat believe that DC is suitable for taxation but not for representation?

Opponent's argument to vote No:Sen. JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ): I make a constitutional point of order against this bill on the grounds that it violates article I, section 2, of the Constitution. I appreciate the frustration felt by the residents of DC at the absence of a vote in Congress. According to many experts, DC is not a State, so therefore is not entitled to that representation. Also, one has to raise the obvious question: If DC is entitled to a Representative, why isn't Puerto Rico, which would probably entail 9 or 10 Members of Congress? [With regards to the seat for Utah], this is obviously partisan horse-trading.

Reference: District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act; Bill S.160 ; vote number 2009-S073 on Feb 26, 2009

Voted NO on granting the District of Columbia a seat in Congress.

Cloture vote on the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act:[Washington DC currently has a "delegate" to the US House, whose vote does not count. Utah had complained that the 2000 census did not count many Utahns on Mormon missions abroad].

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. BYRD: In 1978, I voted for H.J. Res. 554, that proposed amending the Constitution to provide for representation of D.C. [That amendment passed the Senate but was not ratified by the States]. While I recognize that others believe that the Constitution authorizes the Congress to "exercise exclusive legislation" over D.C., the historical intent of the Founders on this point is unclear. I oppose S.1257, because I doubt that our Nation's Founding Fathers ever intended that the Congress should be able to change the text of the Constitution by passing a simple bill.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. HATCH. There are conservative and liberal advocates on both sides of this issue,and think most people know Utah was not treated fairly after the last census. For those who are so sure this is unconstitutional, [we include an] expedited provision that will get us to the Supreme Court to make an appropriate decision. It will never pass as a constitutional amendment. There are 600,000 people in D.C., never contemplated by the Founders of this country to be without the right to vote. They are the only people in this country who do not have a right to vote for their own representative in the House. This bill would remedy that situation.

Reference: District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act; Bill S. 1257 ; vote number 2007-339 on Sep 18, 2007

Voted YES on requiring photo ID to vote in federal elections.

Vote on Dole Amdt. S.2350, amending SP2350 (via the College Cost Reduction Act): To amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to require individuals voting in person to present photo identification.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. DOLE. I am proposing a commonsense measure to uphold the integrity of Federal elections. My amendment to require voters to show photo identification at the polls would go a long way in minimizing potential for voter fraud. When a fraudulent vote is cast and counted, the vote of a legitimate voter is cancelled. This is wrong, and my amendment would help ensure that one of the hallmarks of our democracy, our free and fair elections, is protected. Opinion polls repeatedly confirm that Americans overwhelmingly support this initiative.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. FEINSTEIN. If one would want to suppress the vote in the 2008 election, one would vote for this because this measure goes into effect January 1, 2008. It provides that everybody who votes essentially would have to have a photo ID. If you want to suppress the minority vote, the elderly vote, the poor vote, this is exactly the way to do it. Many of these people do not have driver's licenses. This amendment would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to actually carry out. It goes into effect--surprise--January 1, 2008 [to affect the presidential election]. I urge a "no" vote.

Reference: Dole Amendment to the Help America Vote Act; Bill S.2350, amending SP2350 ; vote number 2007-269 on Jul 19, 2007

Voted YES on allowing some lobbyist gifts to Congress.

A motion to table (kill) an amendment to clarify the application of the gift rule to lobbyists. Voting NAY would define employees of lobbying companies as registered lobbyists and therefore subject to the gift ban. Voting YEA would apply the gift ban only to specific people who registered as lobbyists.
Reference: Feingold Amendment to Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act; Bill S.Amdt.2962 to S.2349 ; vote number 2006-080 on Mar 29, 2006

Voted YES on establishing the Senate Office of Public Integrity.

An amendment to establish the Senate Office of Public Integrity. Voting YEA would establish the new office, and voting NAY would keep ethics investigations within the existing Senate Ethics Committee.
Reference: Collins Amendment to Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act; Bill S.Amdt.3176 to S.2349 ; vote number 2006-077 on Mar 28, 2006

Voted YES on banning "soft money" contributions and restricting issue ads.

Vote on passage of H.R. 2356; Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (Shays-Meehan bill, House equivalent of McCain-Feingoldf bill). Vote to ban “soft money” contributions to national political parties but permit up to $10,000 in soft money contributions to state and local parties to help with voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives. The bill would stop issue ads from targeting specific candidates within 30 days of the primary or 60 days of the general election. Additionally, the bill would raise the individual contribution limit from $1,000 to $2,000 per election for House and Senate candidates, both of which would be indexed for inflation.
Reference: Bill HR.2356 ; vote number 2002-54 on Mar 20, 2002

Voted YES on require photo ID (not just signature) for voter registration.

Motion to Table Schumer Amdt. No. 2937; To permit the use of a signature or personal mark for the purpose of verifying the identity of voters who register by mail, and for other purposes. Voting Yes would kill the amendment. The amendment would allow a signature to identify voters who register by mail, instead of requiring showing photo identification or other proof of residence before being allowed to vote.
Reference: Bill S.565 ; vote number 2002-38 on Feb 27, 2002

Voted YES on banning campaign donations from unions & corporations.

Vote to ban soft money donations to political parties and forbid corporate general funds and union general funds from being spent on issue ads. The bill would increase the individual contribution limit to candidates from $1,000 to $2,000.
Reference: Bill S.27 ; vote number 2001-64 on Apr 2, 2001

Voted NO on funding for National Endowment for the Arts.

This table motion would end debate on an amendment aimed at funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. Support for the motion to table is a vote for NEA funding. [YES to table means supporting the NEA; NO means defunding the NEA].
Status: Motion to Table Agreed to Y)80; N)16; NV)4
Reference: Motion to table Smith Amdt #1569; Bill H.R. 2466 ; vote number 1999-260 on Aug 5, 1999

Voted YES on favoring 1997 McCain-Feingold overhaul of campaign finance.

Support of the campaign finance bill proposed by Senators McCain (R-AZ) and Feingold (D-WI).
Status: Cloture Motion Rejected Y)53; N)47
Reference: Campaign Finance Reform Bill; Bill S. 25 ; vote number 1997-267 on Oct 7, 1997

Voted YES on Approving the presidential line-item veto.

Approval of the presidential line-item veto authority.
Status: Conf Rpt Agreed to Y)69; N)31
Reference: Conference Report on S. 4; Bill S. 4 ; vote number 1996-56 on Mar 27, 1996

Voted NO on banning more types of Congressional gifts.

To exclude certain items from the Congressional Gift Ban.
Status: Amdt Failed Y)39; N)60; NV)1
Reference: Murkowski Amdt to S. 1061; Bill S. 1061 ; vote number 1995-339 on Jul 28, 1995

Supports Shays-Meehan Campaign Finance Reform.

McCain adopted the Blue Dog Coalition press release:

In a press conference today the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of 32 moderate to conservative Democrats, announced their continued support for the Shays-Meehan Campaign Finance Reform bill (H.R. 2356), which is being debated on the House floor today. The Coalition was joined by the lead sponsors of the Senate Campaign Finance Reform bill. “I believe that we need to end the influence of ‘soft money’ generated from undisclosed sources. And I believe that we need to rein in illegal foreign contributions,” said Rep. Ken Lucas (KY), Blue Dog Campaign Finance Reform Task Force Co-Chairman. “True campaign finance reform will restore to the American people their voice in the legislative process--a voice that has been drowned out in recent years by big-money donors.”

The Blue Dog Coalition endorsed the Shays-Meehan bill in March of this year. An official Blue Dog endorsement comes with the approval of no less than two-thirds of the Coalition’s 32 members. “My own campaign experience has demonstrated to me the need for strong campaign finance reform measures,” said freshman Blue Dog Rep. Adam Schiff (CA), whose victory last November was the most expensive House race to date – combined, both candidates spent $11 million. “In order to protect the integrity of our democratic electoral process, we must reduce the corrosive influence of unregulated soft money donations.”

“I have been a strong supporter of Shays-Meehan and urge my colleagues to join with us so we can restore the faith of the American people in our elections,” said Rep. Dennis Moore (KS), a member of the Blue Dog Campaign Finance Reform Task Force. “I’ve worked with Sen. McCain on reform legislation before and I know that by working in a bipartisan manner, we can get big money out of politics.”

Source: Blue Dog Coalition press release 01-BDC4 on Jul 12, 2001

Sponsored bill subjecting 527s to political committee rules.

McCain sponsored subjecting independent 527s to political committee rules

OnTheIssues.org Explanation: "527 organizations" were inspired by the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill. The "527" refers to the relevant section of the tax code. 527s are independent organizations which raise and spend money on behalf of a candidate, without coordinating with the candidate. An example is the "Swift Boat" group in the 2004 elections. OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: A bill to clarify when organizations described in section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code must register as political committees.

SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. McCAIN: This bill would end the illegal practice of "527" groups spending soft money on ads and other activities to influence Federal elections. A number of 527 groups raised and spent a substantial amount of soft money in a blatant effort to influence the outcome of last year's Presidential election. These activities are illegal under existing laws, and yet once again, the FEC has failed to do its job and has refused to do anything to stop these illegal activities. Therefore, we must pursue all possible steps to overturn the FEC's misinterpretation of the campaign finance laws, which is improperly allowing 527 groups whose purpose is to influence Federal elections to spend soft money on these efforts.

The bill we introduce today is simple. It would require that all 527s register as political committees and comply with Federal campaign finance laws, including Federal limits on the contributions they receive, unless the money they raise and spend is only in connection with non-Federal elections.

Enough is enough. It is time to stop wasting taxpayer's dollars on an agency that runs roughshod over the will of the Congress and the Constitution. We've fought too hard to sit back and allow this worthless agency to undermine the law.

LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. Hearings held; never came to a vote.

Source: 527s in BCRA (S.271/H.R.513) 05-S0271 on Feb 2, 2005

Sponsored bill prohibiting non-legislated earmarks.

McCain sponsored prohibiting non-legislated earmarks

OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: A bill to prohibit Federal agencies from obligating funds for appropriations earmarks included only in congressional reports.

SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. McCAIN: This bill would prohibit Federal agencies from obligating funds which have been earmarked only in congressional reports. This legislation is designed to help reign in unauthorized, unrequested, run-of-the-mill pork barrel projects.

Report language does not have the force of law. That fact has been lost when it comes to appropriations bills and reports. It has become a standard practice to load up committee reports with literally billions of dollars in unrequested, unauthorized, and wasteful pork barrel projects.

We simply must start making some very tough decisions around here if we are serious about improving our fiscal future. It is simply not fiscally responsible for us to continue to load up appropriations bills with wasteful and unnecessary spending, and good deals for special interests and their lobbyists. We have had ample opportunities to tighten our belts in this town in recent years, and we have taken a pass each and every time. We can't put off the inevitable any longer.

LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management & Government Information; hearings held; never came to a vote.

Source: Obligation of Funds Transparency Act (S.1495/H.R.1642) 05-S1495 on Jul 26, 2005

Sponsored bill disclosing lobbyist info & gifts on Internet.

McCain sponsored restricting lobbyist gifts & disclosing info on Internet

EXCERPTS OF BILL:

LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs; Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar No. 369; never came to a vote.

Source: Lobbying Transparency & Accountability Act (S.2128/H.R.4975) 05-S2128 on Dec 16, 2005

Rethink flawed Presidential daily intelligence briefings.

McCain signed the Report of the Commission on Intelligence on WMDs:

Mr. President:

After a thorough review, the Commission found no indication that the Intelligence Community distorted the evidence regarding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. What the intelligence professionals told you about Saddam Hussein's programs was what they believed. They were simply wrong.