John McCain Now Open To DISCLOSE-Type Legislation

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has been meeting with Democratic colleagues to discuss legislation to require disclosure for outside group political spending, he told The Hill yesterday.

“I’ve been having discussions with Sen. [Sheldon] Whitehouse [D-R.I.] and a couple others on the issue,” the one-time campaign finance reform advocate said, noting talks have been ongoing for a couple of months and that he wants any legislation to be “balanced and address the issue of union contributions as well as other outside contributions.”

McCain, who famously co-authored the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 with then-Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), has been noticeably AWOL on these issues since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling.

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. When the bill came to the Senate, McCain refused to back the measure. Decrying provisions in it as “a bailout for the unions,” McCain attacked the bill as tougher on corporations than unions.

McCain joined a filibuster and the bill failed to achieve cloture by a single vote. 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.

Now, with an even more closely-divided Senate and Speaker John Boehner running the House, the climb for any disclosure legislation will be steep.

If McCain is serious about rejoining the campaign finance reform fight, it is welcome news. But thanks to his earlier obstruction, he may find his efforts to be too little, too late.