McCain pushes campaign finance reform
June 30, 1999
Web posted at: 2:41 p.m. EDT (1841 GMT)
BEDFORD, New Hampshire (AllPolitics, June 30) -- Pledging to make campaign finance reform a mainstay of his campaign for president, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) scathingly criticized the current system as corrupt and responsible for a "pervasive public cynicism" that hurts the nation's democracy.
Standing in front of signs that had the words "Special interests" with a red slash through them, McCain said politicians only have themselves to blame for a "healthy skepticism that has become widespread cynicism bordering on alienation."
He spared neither party, criticizing both Democrats and his fellow Republicans for putting their own interests ahead of the national interest.
"It is we who have squandered the public trust. We who have time and again 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 are the defenders of 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," he said.
McCain declared that opponents of campaign finance reform are wrong when they say that voters, particularly Republican voters, don't care about campaign finance reform as an issue.
"Most Americans care very much that the Lincoln Bedroom has become a Motel 6 where the president of the United states serves as a bellhop," he said. "Most Americans care very much when monks and nuns abandon their vows of poverty and pay tens of thousands of dollars to have spiritual communion with the vice president."
He did not spare his own party, saying most Republicans are outraged when their leaders abandon efforts for less government "to preserve a financial advantage over the Democrats."
"I think most Republicans understand that soft money -- the enormous sums of money given to both
parties by just about every special interest in the country -- corrupts our political ideals whether it comes from big business or from labor bosses and trial lawyers," he said.
The other Republican candidates in the race have not raised campaign finance reform as an issue and McCain appears to be staking it out as his own, even launching a web site (www.itsyourcountry.com) devoted to the issue.
The current frontrunner in the GOP field, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, has said he wants to raise limits on individual contributions, currently limited to $1,000, and he favors instant disclosure of donations via the Internet. Bush's campaign announced Wednesday he already had raised more than $35 million; McCain has raised less than $5 million.
"I've been told that there is no room for this issue in Republican primaries," McCain said. "Well, I intend to make room for it. I will call for the reform of our political system everywhere I go in this campaign."
McCain, along with Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, has sponsored a bill in the Senate to ban unregulated donations to political parties known as "soft money." He said that he and Feingold will again to try to get the Senate to vote on the bill in the coming weeks.
"Imagine the promises we could keep and the good we could do if politicians stopped treating the federal treasury as a duty-free shop for soft-money donors," he said.
McCain cited his experiences in working on a major telecommunications overhaul in 1996 as a member of the Senate Commerce Committee. He said all the companies affected "had purchased a seat at the table with soft money" and the resulting bill attempted to protect them all, which led to less competition.
"Consumers, who only give us their votes, had no seat at the table, and the lower prices that competition produces never materialized. Cable rates went up. Phone rates went up."