Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) may have sacrificed nearly all of his credibility as a “maverick” when he ran for president in 2008, but on the issue of campaign finance reform, he’s returning to his roots.
During a segment with PBS’ News Hour McCain spoke bleakly about the state of American politics in a post-Citizens United world. “Look, I guarantee you, Judy, there will be scandals,” he said. “There is too much money washing around political campaigns today. And it will take scandals, and then maybe we can have the Supreme Court go back and revisit this issue. Remember, the Supreme Court rules on constitutionality. So just passing another law doesn’t get it. So I’m afraid we’re in for a very bleak period in American politics.”
McCain’s comments are not anything new, but the this time his target audience was not his usual Republican colleagues. These comments were targeted to energize the hard right of his party behind the issue of campaign finance reform. How do we know? Sheldon Adelson.
Adelson is currently the largest public donor to outside spending groups and much of Adelson’s money comes from outside the United States. McCain took this issue head-on accusing Adelson from introducing “foreign money” into the presidential race. “[M]uch of Mr. Adelson’s casino profits that go to him come from this casino in Macau,” McCain told Judy Woodruff in an interview that aired Thursday night. “Which says that, obviously, maybe in a roundabout way, foreign money is coming into an American campaign.”
The Republican establishment did not like this one bit. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) gave a firey speech warning Republicans not to cave and support increased disclosure of political donations and spending as Democrats and progressives push for more broad-based campaign finance reform.
McCain may not have intended to offer up an easy wedge for reform within his party by raising the specter of “foreign money” financing American elections, but that is exactly what he did. If it was intentional than McCain’s political savvy may have returned–albeit momentarily. But given the response from the Republican leadership it is clear this is an issue that makes them very nervous.
Photo from epSos.de via flickr.