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John McCain on Technology

Republican nominee for President; Senior Senator (AZ)


$686K in donations from telecoms as chair of telecom cmte

For his 1998 Senate run, McCain took $562,000 in contributions from the communications industry (he raised $4.4 million for that race--more than ten times as much as his opponent). Before his next reelection campaign, he received $900,000 more. He also amassed $341,000 from airlines, railroads, and other transportation companies. Between 1993 and 2000, McCain collected $685,929 from media corporations, the most of any sitting member of Congress. What do these companies have in common? They all have interests before the Senate Commerce Committee, which McCain chaired at the time.

For example, one week after the bill cleared McCain's committee, the founder of EchoStar Communications, a satellite television concern, threw a fund-raiser for McCain, raising $47,000. The bill eventually passed Congress. A couple of years later, McCain was also one of the leading voices against Rupert Murdoch's acquisition of DirecTV. DirecTV is, of course, the biggest competitor to EchoStar's Dish Network.

Source: Free Ride, by David Brock and Paul Waldman, p.109-110 , Mar 25, 2008

Ban Internet taxes & new cell phone taxes

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

Don’t police Internet crime; go after money to reduce crime

Q: Would you police the Internet culturally, such as for predators & pornography?

A: Absolutely not, but I also want to point out this Internet child pornography is a terrible evil. It’s got to be addressed. And everybody knows the way you stop it is go after the money.

Source: 2007 Republican debate in Dearborn, Michigan , Oct 9, 2007

Ban TV boxing; college football betting; & online gambling

McCain, a huge sports fan, is touchy about anything that might threaten the integrity of organized competition, or simply shock the sensibilities of gullible young fans. He has proposed a federal ban on college sports betting (even though he is an "avid gambler," according to a 2005 profile) because it "can have a terrible effect on young people." He wants the federal government to regulate boxing, down to establishing a national commissioner. After seeing a tape of an Ultimate Fighting match, McCain sent letters to all 50 states urging them to ban the practice, calling it a "brutal and repugnant blood sport that should not be allowed to take place." Due in large part to his efforts, the sport was outlawed in more than 35 states and dropped from both TCI & Time Warner cable.

He also supports the ban on online gabling because "a lot of these outfits that do it are located outside the US," and "there is no confidence that you're in a fair game, there are absolutely no rules, no regulation."

Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p. 96-97 , Oct 9, 2007

Veto pork barrel; focus transportation spending on repairs

Q: Do you want to raise taxes to fix more bridges?

A: We passed a $50 billion transportation bill that had $2 billion in pork barrel earmarked projects: $233 million for a bridge to nowhere in Alaska, to an island with 50 people on it. Not one dime in those pork barrel projects was for inspection or repair of bridges. They were for pork barrel projects. I’ll veto every single bill that comes across my desk and [publicize] the authors of those pork barrel projects.

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

Special interest influence corruptly took HDTV frequencies

Q: You said you wouldn’t put up with having police and fire radios on different frequencies?

A: I was talking about the fact that the special interests have kept the spectrum, which the American people are supposed to have and our first responders are supposed to have--we gave the broadcasters high definition television. In return, they were supposed to give a spectrum that was going to be reserved for the first responders. Again, the special interest influence prevailed over the public’s interest.

Source: 2007 GOP primary debate, at Reagan library, hosted by MSNBC , May 3, 2007

FactCheck: Special interests only delayed HDTV transfer

McCain blamed “special interests” for hogging radio frequencies. Actually, that issue was settled in the last Congress, & emergency responders are scheduled to get the space by Feb.2009.

It is true there has been a delay. A decade ago Congress set 2006 as the deadline for broadcasters to give up the vast swaths of frequency space they now use to send programs by old-fashioned analog technology & start using different frequencies & more modern digital technology exclusively.

But McCain oversimplifies when he blames “special interests” for the delay. While it is true that broadcasters were in no rush to give up their analog channels, they had good reason: As recently as two years ago 21 million US households still relied exclusively on analog sets and would have been unable to receive TV programs without the purchase of a converter box. The truth is that other “special interests” helped push through the legislation McCain favored. These included Motorola and other electronics manufacturers.

Source: FactCheck on 2007 GOP primary debate, at Reagan library , May 3, 2007

Provide unused spectrum to emergency officials

Some of us in Congress have tried for several years to provide unused spectrum to police, firefighters and other emergency officials without, I am sorry to report, success. With all the technological advances of recent years, why is it that those on whom we depend when disasters strike are still unable to communicate with each other during an emergency, while we are able to watch the crisis unfold on our televisions? It’s because public officials have yet to get serious about developing and funding a safety communications system for all local, state and federal first responders.

Government needs to develop a comprehensive, interoperable emergency communications plan and set equipment standards, fund emergency and interoperable communications equipment, and provide the radio spectrum that will allow communicating over long distances using the same frequencies and equipment. We should have done it years ago. We must do it now before disaster, man made or natural, strikes us again.

Source: 2007 IAFF Presidential Forum in Washington DC , Mar 14, 2007

1996 Telecomm Bill: public interest was not at the table

In 2001, referring to the last time he had fought for his campaign finance reform bill, in 1999, when some of his Senate colleagues ripped into him because he had accurately called the current system corrupt, McCain said, “I’m not going to let them pull me into a personal combat. That was my worst test. I’m not going to engage in that again.”

McCain believed that the current campaign finance system was more of a plague on the body politic than ever. He said, “It’s badly skewed our priorities, and blocked badly needed legislation to help the American people. It’s never been worse in my time here. It affects everything: the tax code, the military, Medicare, Social Security, gambling--you name it. I can give you a list of twenty issues that haven’t been acted on, or cite the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which was nothing like reform.” Of that bill, McCain often said, “All the interests were at the table but the public interest.”

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

Uses Internet to read news & to get donations

Q: We’re interested in knowing how much each one of you uses the Internet. How much time do you spend on it?
A: Not nearly as well as I should. My wife Cindy is a whiz. And when I want to find out what’s on CNN, or The NY Times, or other communist periodicals, I always go to it. But the phenomenal thing about the Internet [is that] we’ve gotten like $7 million in contributions over the Internet. It’s been marvelous. $7 million, because they want reform, they want the government back.
Source: GOP debate in Los Angeles , Mar 2, 2000

Digital Divide requires tax credits for equipment & teachers

Q: Should we spend government funds to address the “digital divide?” A: There’s a growing gap between the haves and the have-nots in America -- those that are able to take part in this information technology and those that haven’t. We took a major step forward when we decided to wire every school and library in America to the Internet. That’s a good program. We have to have step two, three and four, which means good equipment, good teachers and good classrooms. No, I wouldn’t do it directly, but there’s lots of ways that you can encourage corporations who, in their own self-interest, would want to provide -- would receive tax benefits, would receive credit, and many other ways for being involved in the schools and upgrading the quality of the equipment that they have, the quality of the students, and thereby providing a much-needed, well-trained work force.
Source: GOP Debate in Manchester NH , Jan 26, 2000

Internet tax ban saved consumers $600M this Xmas

Q: Do you support taxing Internet commerce? A: If we had had Internet taxation over the holiday, American citizens would have paid an additional $600 million in taxes. This Internet tax moratorium should be made permanent. It should be made permanent today. The American people are taking advantage of a wonderful new opportunity with this technology. We should do everything we can to encourage it.
Source: Republican debate in West Columbia, South Carolina , Jan 7, 2000

Free TV & radio to candidates as a public interest

Q: Are you in favor of free and equal TV time for all candidates?

A: The TV and radio stations use the public’s assets, the spectrum, in order to function. When they get a license to use that, they sign a piece of paper that says they will act in the “public interest.” It seems to me that the public interest is clearly that they should help with the political process. These folks are good at enticing people to watch their stations. I think they could do a good job helping candidates attract viewers.

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

Make Internet tax moratorium permanent

McCAIN [to Hatch]: Orrin, you & I have worked on a couple very important pieces of legislation in the past few years. One of them is the Y2K Product Liability Reform Act, which was very important to keep us from experiencing a flood of litigation as a result of the year 2000. The other one was the Internet Tax Moratorium Act. As you know, this was stoutly resisted by governors, Republican governors as well. Don’t you think we ought to make the Internet tax moratorium permanent?

HATCH: Yeah, we ought to do it because it’s far overblown to think that people buying over the Internet is going to [hurt store sales]. But we [should] be encouraging one of the most important innovations in the history of the world, the Internet. And I’ll tell you what I’m worried about: the almighty hand of the federal government coming in & oppressing the Internet & stifling innovation and creativity. We want to keep government’s mitts off as much as we can. And if we do, we’ll reap the benefits from it.

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

Encourage teachers to learn high tech

It’s probably the most pressing issue that faces America as we want to fully exploit the potential of this information technology revolution that we’re going through. We simply don’t have the teachers, nor do we have the educated people to fulfill this incredible potential that is changing America and the world. It’s important that we have merit pay for teachers, that we have teacher testing, that we do everything we can to motivate young men and women to enter this profession.
Source: Republican Debate at Dartmouth College , Oct 29, 1999

Technology can hasten end of haves vs. have-nots

The blessings of technology give us the means to breach the walls of ignorance and isolation. We [can reach] our founding ideal that all men are created equal by giving all Americans access to information and knowledge, and an equal opportunity not only to pursue, but to attain happiness. Education is the great equalizer and used wisely, the information revolution will hasten the end of a two-tiered society of haves and have nots, and advance human freedom into the even the darkest corners of tyranny.
Source: Candidacy Declaration Speech, Nashua NH , Sep 27, 1999

Get more government documents on-line

McCain released a report of the “Ten Most Wanted” government documents online. The report also lists the federal agencies that have failed to comply with the 1996 Electronic Freedom Act, which required government agencies to allow taxpayers access to federal documents. “I find it astonishing that the Supreme Court of Mongolia has an official web site, but the US Supreme Court still does not,” said McCain. “It is critical to make as much information as possible available to the public over the Interne
Source: Press Release: “Ten Most Wanted Online” , Aug 4, 1999

Telecommuncations Act was an influence-peddling scheme

McCain said the Telecommunications Act of 1996 - which he opposed on final passage - has resulted in increased cable TV rates because consumers were not represented when it was being negotiated. “It 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,” he said.
Source: Matthew Fordahl, Associated Press , Jul 7, 1999

Internet access, with filters, at every school & library

McCain seeks high-speed Internet access for every school, but suggested requiring filtering software for all public school and library computers as a way to keep children from potentially harmful Internet sites.
Source: (cross-ref to Education) Associated Press , Jun 14, 1999

No government control over computer encryption

Source: Senate statements S.798 , Apr 14, 1999

Voted YES on authorizing states to collect Internet sales taxes.

Congressional Summary: The Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013 authorizes each state to require all sellers with sales exceeding $1 million in the preceding calendar year to collect and remit sales and use taxes, but only if complying with the minimum simplification requirements relating to the administration of such taxes & audits.

Opponent's Argument for voting No (Cnet.com): Online retailers are objecting to S.743, saying it's unreasonable to expect small businesses to comply with the detailed--and sometimes conflicting--regulations of nearly 10,000 government tax collectors. S.743 caps years of lobbying by the National Retail Federation and the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represent big box stores. President Obama also supports the bill.

Proponent's Argument for voting Yes: Sen. COLLINS. This bill rectifies a fundamental unfairness in our current system. Right now, Main Street businesses have to collect sales taxes on every transaction, but outbecause -of-state Internet sellers don't have to charge this tax, they enjoy a price advantage over the mom-and-pop businesses. This bill would allow States to collect sales taxes on Internet sales, thereby leveling the playing field with Main Street businesses. This bill does not authorize any new or higher tax, nor does it impose an Internet tax. It simply helps ensure that taxes already owed are paid.

Opponent's Argument for voting No: Sen. WYDEN: This bill takes a function that is now vested in government--State tax collection--and outsources that function to small online retailers. The proponents say it is not going to be hard for small businesses to handle this--via a lot of new computer software and the like. It is, in fact, not so simple. There are more than 5,000 taxing jurisdictions in our country. Some of them give very different treatment for products and services that are almost identical.

McCain says, "McCain (R-AZ)"

Reference: Marketplace Fairness Act; Bill S.743 ; vote number 13-SV113 on May 6, 2013

Voted NO on restoring $550M in funding for Amtrak for 2007.

An amendment to provide an additional $550,000,000 for Amtrak for fiscal year 2007. Voting YEA would increase Amtrak funding from $900 million to $1.45 billion. Voting NAY would keep Amtrak funding at $900 million.
Reference: Santorum amendment to Transportation funding bill; Bill S.Amdt.3015 to S.Con.Res.83 ; vote number 2006-052 on Mar 15, 2006

Voted NO on disallowing FCC approval of larger media conglomerates.

Vote to pass a joint resolution expressing congressional disapproval of the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission. The rule would therefore have no force or effect. The rule in question deals with broadcast media ownership and would allow media conglomerates to own more television stations and newspapers.
Reference: FCC Media Ownership bill; Bill S J Res 17/H.J.RES.72 ; vote number 2003-348 on Sep 16, 2003

Voted YES on Internet sales tax moratorium.

Vote against allowing states to require companies who do business in their state solely by phone, mail, or the Internet to collect state sales taxes. [Current law does not require companies to collect sales taxes where the customer is out of state]
Reference: Bill S.442 ; vote number 1998-296 on Oct 2, 1998

Voted NO on telecomm deregulation.

Deregulation of the telecommunications industry.
Status: Telecommunications Competition and Deregulation Act of 1995 Y)91; N)5; NV)3
Reference: Conference Report on S. 625, the; Bill S. 652 ; vote number 1996-8 on Feb 1, 1996

Sponsored bill requiring text on TV for visually-impaired.

McCain sponsored requiring text on TV for visually-impaired viewers

OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: A bill to reinstate the Federal Communications Commission's rules for the description of video programming.

SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. McCAIN: This bill would require television broadcasters, during at least 50 hours of their prime time or children's programming every quarter, to insert verbal descriptions of actions or settings not contained in the normal audio track of a program. This can be accomplished through technology commonly referred to as "video description services," which allows television programming to be more accessible and enjoyable for the visually impaired.

This bill is necessary due to a 2002 decision by District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals. In 2000, the FCC, recognizing the need to make television programming accessible to the visually impaired, mandated that television broadcast stations provide 50 hours of video descriptions during prime time or children's programming every calendar quarter. Television programmers challenged the Commission's authority to promulgate such rules. The Circuit Court held that the Commission did not have authority to issue the regulations.

This bill would provide the Commission the authority to promulgate such regulations and reinstate the FCC's video description rules issued in 2000. Since the spectrum that television broadcasters utilize is a public asset, one would expect that programming over the public airwaves is accessible to all Americans. Unfortunately, that is not the case today and that is why we must pass the TIVI Act. I sincerely hope that television broadcasters will work with us to provide video descriptions for individuals with visual disabilities.

LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; never came to a vote.

Source: TV for the Visually Impaired Act (S.900/H.R.951) 05-S0900 on Apr 26, 2005

Permanent ban on state & local taxation of Internet access.

McCain co-sponsored permanently banning state & local taxation of Internet access

Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act of 2007 - Amends the Internet Tax Freedom Act to make permanent the ban on state and local taxation of Internet access and on multiple or discriminatory taxes on electronic commerce.

Related bills: H.R.743, H.R.1077, H.R.3678, S.156.

Source: Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (S.2128) 07-S2128 on Oct 2, 2007

Require websites to police for copyrighted materials.

McCain co-sponsored PIPA: PROTECT IP Act

Congressional Summary:Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act, or the PROTECT IP Act, or PIPA (in the House, Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA) :

OnTheIssues Notes: SOPA and PIPA, proponents claim, would better protect electronic copyright ("IP", or Intellectual Property). Opponents argue that SOPA and PIPA would censor the Internet. Internet users and entrepreneurs oppose the two bills; google.com and wikipedia.com held a "blackout" on Jan. 18, 2012 in protest. An alternative bill, the OPEN Act was proposed on Jan. 18 to protect intellectual property without censorship; internet businesses prefer the OPEN Act while the music and movie industries prefer SOPA and PIPA.

Source: HR3261/S968 11-S968 on May 12, 2011

Website for competitive federal awards.

McCain co-sponsored website for competitive federal awards

A bill to strengthen transparency and accountability in Federal spending.

Source: Strengthening Transparency and Accountability Act (S.3077) 2008-S3077 on Jun 3, 2008

Other candidates on Technology: John McCain on other issues:
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Page last updated: Jul 04, 2014