McCain on campaign finance: 'The system is broken'
June 17th, 2012
11:58 AM ET
10 years ago

McCain on campaign finance: 'The system is broken'

(CNN) - "Uninformed, arrogant, naive." Sen. John McCain used those three words in an interview Sunday to slam the Citizens United decision, the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that paved the way for political donations from corporations and special interest groups.

Pressed on the issue of campaign cash and whether it is unduly influencing this year's presidential campaign, the Republican senator from Arizona maintained that allowing an "incredible amount of money" to enter political races opens the door for corruption.

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"I think there will be scandals associated with the worst decision of the United States Supreme Court in the 21st century," McCain said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

The GOP senator suggested earlier Supreme Court benches would have ruled differently in the case.

"That's why we miss people like William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O'Connor who had some experience with - with congressional and other races, with the political arena."

Asked about Nevada billionaire and GOP financier Sheldon Adleson's recent pledge, along with his wife Miriam, of $10 million to the super PAC supporting Mitt Romney, McCain iterated it's the threat of not just one but many potential donors that hurts the electoral system.

"The whole system is broken and it's a wash. I don't pick out Mr. Adleson any more than I pick out Mr. Trumka," McCain said, referring to the AFL-CIO leader who helped finance Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.

"I've always been concerned about the labor unions who take money from their union members and without their permission contribute to causes they may not support," McCain continued.

Casino owner Sheldon Adleson gained notoriety for backing former GOP candidate Newt Gingrich with more than $20 million in donations to the pro-Gingrich super PAC Winning our Future during the Republican primaries.

Doubts about whether Adleson would eventually back Romney evaporated when he and his wife gave $10 million to the pro-Romney super PAC in mid-June. Since then, Adleson has made comments he may contribute as much as $100 million to the GOP presidential candidate.

During the interview, McCain quickly shifted focus away from Romney's donors and toward what he called Obama's preoccupation with raising money for his re-election bid.

"I'm concerned that the president continues to go around to all of these fund-raisers when maybe he should be spending more time governing," McCain said.

McCain took his criticism of the president back in time to the 2008 presidential campaign when then-Sen. Barack Obama opted out of $85 million in matching funds upon becoming the Democratic nominee. Obama vociferously rejected the public fund-raising money, claiming it would allow "special interests (to) drown out the voices of the American people."

"And then (Obama) outraised me, obviously, by a great deal," McCain said, referring to the half a billion dollars Obama raised through grassroots campaigning.

While he lamented current laws and their influence on the campaigns, McCain said he was hopeful current finance laws will eventually change.

"The fact is that the system is broken," he said. "I predict to you there will be scandals, and I predict to you that there will be reform again."

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Filed under: Fundraising • John McCain
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. vic , nashville ,tn

    Romney campaign bought by Sheldon Adelson, is that simple

    June 17, 2012 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  2. Malory Archer

    That's the most lucid thing he's said in years!

    June 17, 2012 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  3. Jesus

    The ten poorest states in our country are republican.

    June 17, 2012 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  4. mademoiselleseduisante

    I am not a huge fan of McCain's, nor do I dislike him... I am kind of indifferent about him. He does things I like and things I don't. However, these statements here... I agree with!

    June 17, 2012 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  5. HomeSweetHome

    I have to wonder why it took McCain "so long" to realize this.

    June 17, 2012 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  6. Dave Harris

    Is McCain forgetting which party he's in thrall to? This is Republicans' Great White Hope for buying the election. And they don't tolerate anyone speaking out of line.

    June 17, 2012 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  7. Donkey Party

    McCain was doing fine until he tried to draw a false equivalence between Adleson and Trumpka. Last anyone checked, Trumpka isn't a billionaire, nor has he thrown 30 million of his own money at Democrat candidates. There's a huge difference between receiving money from hundreds of thousands of donors, and receiving it from one donor, or from one foreign-owned corporation.

    June 17, 2012 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  8. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    Wow John... Seems like you could have stated that this was a bad idea LONG ago.... You predict scandals AND reform?!?! I bet you are right... I predict the sun will rise AND set!!

    June 17, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  9. mk1

    Jesus. don;t forget that the ten lowest wage states, ten lowest scoring educational states, and the ten states with the most uninsured people are also run by Republicans.
    HomeSweetHome, McCain realized this a long time ago, that is why he was part of the now failed McCain/Feingold campaign finance act which tried to control this outside money buying our elections.

    June 17, 2012 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  10. sid

    Question Romney's obligation to Ms. Adleson and Isreal as well as his obligations to Trumps grandiose need for ego fuel and power.

    June 17, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  11. T'sah From Virginia

    ►"The whole system is broken and it's a wash. I don't pick out Mr. Adleson any more than I pick out Mr. Trumpka," McCain said, referring to the AFL-CIO leader who helped finance Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. ◄

    But the Republican governors are making sure that the unions are destroyed, aren't they??? So that would be left behind – the Adelsons , Koch brothers, BIG corporations, et. al. – and they will continue to BUY the elections.

    Obama 2012 – The Only Trusted Way Forward!!

    June 17, 2012 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  12. ST

    Though what McCain says makes very, very much sense but why did he endorse Romney who is in for winning it, regardless whether the money is coming from legal sources or not. McCain should understand that a lot from GOP hesitated to endorse Romney with sounding reasons.

    June 17, 2012 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  13. Mac

    Democracy is supposed to be one man/woman, one vote. Now it is one man/woman times the size of bank account equals number of votes.

    June 17, 2012 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  14. Four more years of THIS?! NO WAY!!

    T'sah From Virginia – But the Republican governors are making sure that the unions are destroyed, aren't they??
    Republican governors are trying to save their states from going bankrupt at the hands on the unions and the Democrats that have given them huge money and benefits that states simply cannot afford. They are representing THE TAXPAYERS and no the unions. What a novel concept huh?! One that the Democrats can't grasp.

    June 17, 2012 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  15. Jay

    McCain is trying to avoid the same fate as Specter, Snow, Luger, etal who either lost reelection or got out knowing the tea party fervor was going to excommunicate them. Remember at one time he was thought to be considering changing parties? And the GOP accused Kerry of flip-flops! Technology time and again disproves these guys - whenever they say "I never said that", it's now easy to roll the tape.

    June 17, 2012 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  16. gate

    McCain is a true patriot. He puts the good of the country before his personal politics. I voted for Obama but I respect this man. There aren't many Republicans (or Dems for that matter) that I can say that about anymore.

    June 17, 2012 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  17. Thomas

    Thanks, Supreme Court! We now have the best elections money can buy!
    McCain-Feingold was initially upheld by the Supreme Court in 2003. It was after Bush appointee Roberts joined the court as Chief Justice.

    Time for McCain to retire , then he can do exactly like Alan Simpson has done. Criticize the hypocrisy of his abstractionist party.

    Plutocracy (from Ancient Greek ploutos, meaning "wealth", and kratos, meaning "power, rule") is rule by the wealthy, or power provided by wealth.

    And the few that hold that wealth have the power for more wealth and power. America .

    June 17, 2012 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  18. wow o wow

    Well I am sure all the republicans will now get on the bandwagon and call McCain a traitor and evil for ever questioning a supreme court ruling! I mean, republicans are consistant... right? Even though McCain is right about his criticism, he still seems oblivious to how the real world operates. He wants to have the president concede the election and quit campaigning... good try mr senator... the senator who along with Obama, didn't hesitate to campaign instead of concentrating on lawmaking.

    June 17, 2012 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  19. King

    I always say that's McCane know nothing about the economy, but he's a patriot. he know the repubs coupled. with the right leaning supreme courts have sold our democracy to the corporations, the average voter have less say in our country's businesses, when they've got big money take away theirs freedoms. I also agree with McCain when he was objective to adolson using his millions in chines profits to fund mittens campaign. he knows smitten is a vulture capitalist, and he will open free agreement trade with china to reward doners like adolson. how can the American middle class compete with 2 billion Chinese slave workers for America jobs. the job exedus from America will let the NAFTA jobs exodus look like child play.

    June 17, 2012 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  20. clarke

    Really, the system is broken. DUH. It has been broke

    June 17, 2012 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  21. Ancient Texan

    If LABOR UNIONS are people and can donate hundreds of millions to Democrat campaigns in attempt to buy politicians, then Corporations are definitely people also. Stockholders, workers, managers, and CEOs are all people!

    June 17, 2012 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  22. Julie

    Most of America wants you ALL fired, kicked out, NONE of you have done ANYTHING but make this country worse. Civil War is coming against you, all of you. Our military will turn on you, all of you. When you can't feed your family and jobs are NOWHERE, and minimum wage is enough to die on...the people have had enough. You and your co-workers sit on your loftly perches and eat well eveynight not worrying about finding a place to live or putting food on the table, or paying your electric bill.....civil war is coming and you all will go.

    June 17, 2012 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  23. Catmandew

    Simple fix fire all of them and start over.Mccain tried to make changes unlike Obama who just takes advantage of the system and doesnt try for anyone but Obama.

    June 17, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  24. arale norimaki

    insider trading has been one of the perks that our Congressmen and women have gotten away with for years. When they vote on something that they have heavily invested in, it fraud at the highest level. He should be investigated.

    June 17, 2012 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  25. Michael Q

    "I've always been concerned about the labor unions who take money from their union members and without their permission contribute to causes they may not support," McCain continued.

    And, this is different from "corporations" contributing to super pacs without the employees, minority shareholders, and customers' permission to causes they may support. Typical reasoning from this old guy who still argues based on what happened to him in 2008. Of course, when a guy runs for election as often as Romney has, all those contributions as the man who can do things directly for the corporate business sector sure illustrates the point of corporate contributions (big tax write-off included) , doesn't it?

    June 17, 2012 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
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