Sen. McCain to Vote Against DISCLOSE

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) will not support transparency legislation that will be voted on next week in the U.S. Senate, a move at odds with months of interviews and actions by Arizona's senior Senator decrying the dismemberment of our campaign finance system.

A few recent examples:

  • In a June “Meet the Press” interview, McCain called the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, “uninformed, arrogant, naïve” and “the worst decision of the United States Supreme Court in the 21st century.”
  • He said of the 2012 elections, “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's behind it, and too much corruption associated with that kind of money. There will be major scandals.”
  • In March, Roll Call reported: "But a decade after the McCain-Feingold law was signed by the president (March 27, 2002), the erstwhile allies are delivering a strikingly unified message: The campaign finance rules are in tatters, scandals will follow, and voters will once again demand reform."
  • He jointly wrote with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)—the sponsor of the DISCLOSE Act--an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court for a related case, urging it to reconsider its ruling in Citizens United. In that brief, he eviscerated the Court’s weak (and disproven by recent elections) assumption that current disclosure rules would be “adequate” and “effective” at informing voters and preventing corruption.

In the brief, McCain and Whitehouse state:

“Regulatory filings show that much of the funding for independent expenditures comes from shell companies, pass-through entities, and non-profit organizations that conceal the true source of the individuals and companies supporting them. These non-disclosed funding sources were not what the Court had in mind when it issued its ruling in Citizens United, and therefore it did not consider the strong potential for corruption and the appearance of corruption they would create, including through threats and promises of spending."

"McCain appears to be more afraid of Mitch McConnell than he is of a black eye in the media," says David Donnelly, executive director of Public Campaign Action Fund. "Until there's a political price to pay for opposing reform and policies like DISCLOSE, politicians will look for any excuse to maintain the status quo."

McCain is right when he says “the system is broke.” Disclosure in and of itself won’t fix the system, but it’s a start. And it’s unfortunate McCain won’t vote to begin the repairs.

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With Kurt Walters, Research Associate