Senator McCain Criticizes Campaign Spending After Blocking Efforts to Curb It

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Sen. John McCain

Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican who voted twice to block proposals to require outside groups to disclose their donors, told the U.S. Supreme Court that “Americans believe that the current system of campaign finance is corrupt, and that Citizens United, thanks to the anonymous spending it unleashed, has made the problem worse.”

Those comments come from a brief McCain and Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island filed with the Supreme Court, which is considering whether to review a Montana state law banning campaign spending by corporations. The Montana Supreme Court upheld the law even after the Citizens United case, saying it didn’t apply in part because of a history of bribery and other corruption in the state. The U.S. Supreme Court has blocked the measure until it decides whether to take the case.

McCain was the co-author of a 2002 campaign finance law that prevented political parties from taking corporate and union money, and stopped anonymously funded groups from running political ads shortly before an election.

Many parts of McCain’s law were struck down by the High Court, even as he praised the justices who did so as the models for the people he would nominate.

After the Supreme Court overturned almost a century of law and precedent in the Citizens United decision, congressional Democrats responded by drafting legislation that would require groups running political ads to disclose their donors. After the bill passed the House, the Senate twice fell one vote shy of overcoming a Republican filibuster and bringing the legislation up for a vote.

Both times, McCain voted with his party to block the disclosure bill. Of the $133 million spent in the 2010 elections by groups that did not disclose their donors, $120 million went to help elect McCain’s fellow Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group. In the brief, McCain and Whitehouse said that “so-called independent expenditures,” such as those given the green light by the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case, “create a strong potential for corruption and the perception thereof. The news confirms, daily, that existing campaign finance rules purporting to provide for ‘independence’ and ‘disclosure’ in fact provide neither. 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.”

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