John McCain on Government Reform

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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: “Position Papers” 5/24/99 May 24, 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: May 10, 1999

Supports term limits on Congress

McCain supports amending the Constitution to limit the number of terms which members of Congress can serve.
Source: Project Vote Smart, 1998, Jul 2, 1998

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