- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2001

Less than 24-hours after George W. Bush took the presidential oath of office, his former rival Sen. John McCain popped up on NBC's "Meet the Press" to issue a legislative ultimatum. Unless he, a handful of other Republicans and all of the Senate Democrats are permitted to pre-empt the legislative agenda of Mr. Bush, Mr. McCain threatens to shut down the Senate in person. That's some brass.

Mr. McCain's pet issue, of course, is campaign-finance "reform," the cause that has obsessed him ever since he was caught improperly intervening with federal regulators on behalf of a soon-to-be-bankrupt Arizona Savings and Loan operator who was one of Mr. McCain's benefactors. Mr. McCain later concluded that every other politician acted the same way, delivering speeches asserting, "We are all corrupted!"

Mr. McCain's obsession with his "reform" agenda not only failed to propel him to the GOP nomination last year; the issue did not even play a minor role in the presidential general campaign after he was forced to leave the contest.

So, what did Mr. McCain do yesterday, before Mr. Bush had a chance to unveil his legislative priorities for education? The Arizona senator announced he is resubmitting his flawed campaign-finance bill. "I am not interested in any way in harming the president of the United States' agenda," Mr. McCain declared with a straight face, even as he threatened to tie up the Senate by attaching his pet bill to every piece of legislation unless Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott acquiesced to his demand that his bill be debated before the end of March rather than before Memorial Day, as Mr. Lott had offered.

Mr. McCain believes that there is too much money in politics today. Worse, in his misguided view, like-minded citizens be they, for example, pro-life or pro-choice have banded together in order to make their views heard. Worst of all, citizens have taken to publicizing the voting records of elected representatives. To "solve" these "problems," Mr. McCain seeks to ban the unregulated contributions, known as "soft money," that unions, corporations and wealthy individuals make to political parties. To "solve" the second problem those pesky First Amendment rights that "special interest" insist on exercising Mr. McCain would simply drastically limit their ability to exercise their free speech rights.

Just to prove that he and his co-sponsors (Republican Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, who ought to know better, and Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin) have little interest in truly reforming the political fund-raising system, their legislation maintains the "hard-money" contribution limits of $1,000 from individuals and $5,000 from political action committees. Those were the limits that Congress established more than a quarter-century ago. Nor does the McCain-Feingold-Cochran bill do anything to address the worst feature of today's campaign-finance system, the wholesale expropriation by Big Labor bosses of a portion of their union members' wages to finance political activities. More than 98 percent of those political expenditures benefit the Democratic Party despite the fact that nearly 40 percent of voters in union households cast their votes for George W. Bush in November. Nobody in a union household, it's worth emphasizing, voted for John McCain in November, a fact with which he has yet to come to terms.

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