- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 15, 2006

Sen. John McCain said yesterday that the Federal Election Commission is “corrupt” and that lobbying reform is not the solution to cleaning up a fundraising scandal that has engulfed Capitol Hill.

The Arizona Republican and co-author of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform legislation said the commission is rewriting the law through its decision-making process.

“The Federal Election Commission, which is corrupt, will not enforce existing law, much less rein in … this excess,” Mr. McCain said.

Political interest groups called 527s widely were used during the last presidential race, but Mr. McCain says prior law made those groups illegal.

“They continue to try to carve out loopholes in [the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act], known to many as McCain-Feingold. Thirteen of the 15 regulations they issued to implement the McCain-Feingold law were thrown out by the courts because they were in direct contravention to it. The 527s are illegal under the ‘74 law,” Mr. McCain said.

The 527s engage in political activities using soft money contributions and are tax-exempt organizations. The 527 group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth did major damage to the presidential campaign of Democratic Sen. John Kerry.

“We’ve got a Federal Election Commission that is corrupt, and we’ve got ethics committees that aren’t working,” Mr. McCain said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, is one target of the Justice Department’s investigation into influence peddling between lobbyists associated with Jack Abramoff and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Mr. Reid’s spokesman said the senator asked the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate his dealings with Abramoff. Another lawmaker, Sen. Conrad Burns, Montana Republican, wrote Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales last year asking for an investigation into any links the senator has with Abramoff.

Mr. McCain said that lobbying reform measures are under way in both chambers, but that they will not curb the favoritism that lawmakers write into spending bills, a practice called “earmarking” that is used to acquire pork projects for a lawmaker’s district or state.

“All the lobbying reform in the world will not do the job until you stop the earmarking. [It’s] the reason why we have 34,000 lobbyists, the reason why we have now 15,000 earmarks. In 1994, there were 4,000 earmarks,” Mr. McCain said.

“How did Duke Cunningham, with a relationship with one lobbyist, get tens of millions of dollars into an appropriations bill?” Mr. McCain said, referring to the California Republican who resigned after admitting that he took bribes from defense contractors.

“The system is broken. It must be fixed. And the American people deserve better than what we’re having now. So you can do all the lobbying reform you want. And I’m happy to be involved in it. I’m overjoyed to be involved in it. But until we fix this earmark system, then you’re going to have people who feel, correctly, the only way they can get their project done is to go to a lobbyist who has influence,” Mr. McCain said.

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