In a panel yesterday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling “a combination of arrogance, naivete, and stupidity, the likes of which I have never seen.” And he predicted scandals would come from the combination of unlimited corporate contributions and lack of disclosure for many independent expenditures:
McCain: I promise you this. I promise you there will be huge scandals… because there’s too much money washing around, too much of it… we don’t know who, who contributed it, and there is too much corruption associated with that kind of money. There will be major scandals.
Moderator: John McCain never gives up. That’s the legend. Are you gonna give up on this?
McCain: No. But I’ve got to wait until we think that can pass legislation. And I’m not sure right now, frankly, that we could get it passed.
Watch the video:
With a Republican House largely unconcerned about the issue and a Republican minority able to block legislation through filibuster, McCain is probably correct in his assessment of the prospects of a legislative fix in the current Congress.
But McCain deserves a large share of the blame for the secret money in our political system.
In 2010, after the high court ruled, McCain declared campaign finance reform dead and essentially washed his hands of the cause, telling CBS’s Bob Schieffer, “I don’t think there’s much that can be done.”
Without McCain’s help, Democrats created the Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act. The bill — which sought to ban campaign expenditures by foreign-owned corporations and to require disclosure of the true sources of the money behind independent expenditures and electioneering communications — passed the House in June of 2010.
On September 24, Democratic efforts to end a Republican filibuster of the measure failed by a single vote. All 59 Senate Democrats voted to end debate, McCain voted no. Rather than offering amendments to the bill or working behind the scenes with sponsors to reach an agreement, McCain was the deciding vote to kill the bill without even allowing an up-or-down vote.
Perhaps he feared a tough 2010 primary, but when there was a chance to do something about disclosure, McCain opted to stand with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and the Chamber of Commerce rather than Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and the campaign finance reform movement. He has not even co-sponsored the disclosure-only DISCLOSE Act of 2012 introduced last week.
McCain’s grumbling comes as too little, too late and should be seen as what it is — little more than grandstanding.
ThinkProgress intern Zach Bernstein contributed to this report.