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Campaign Finance Reform

Read the remarks from:
Curtis Gans

  • Round Three

    Susan Tolchin
  • Round Three

  • Remarks From Sen. John McCain

    Part Three Of Five

    By Sen. John McCain
    April 2, 1997

    We live in the greatest democracy in the history of the world because of the foresight of our Founding Fathers to create a government that represented and had the trust of the people. It is that trust that we must seek to restore.

    Democrats and Republicans who support the McCain-Feingold bill share similar beliefs in how our political system should function. We have misgivings about the role money plays in our electoral system. We share a concern that more and more Americans are choosing not to run for public office because they lack the access to the millions of dollars necessary to run a competitive campaign. We are troubled that Americans have come to view their elected leaders and representatives with a depth of cynicism not seen since the early 1970s.

    The principles of the bill do not favor any party. They are designed to bring fairness to the current system and truly level the playing field for elections. Following are the main tenants of the bill:

    • For those candidates who comply with the spending limits, they will receive limited free broadcast time, additional broadcast discounts, and reduced postage rates.

    • If candidates do not comply with the limits, they must pay full price for all mail and advertising and their opponents who do comply can raise additional funds to compete against the non-complying candidate.

    • The bill would mandate full disclosure of soft money, also known as sewer money, including all party money and Get Out The Vote money.

    • The bill would ban the personal use of campaign funds.

    Nearly 50 editorials from around the country have been written in support of our bill. Newspapers as diverse as The New York Times, The Roanoke Times and World News, The Christian Science Monitor, The Los Angeles Times and The Kansas City Star have all endorsed this bill.

    It took three years to reform our lobbying disclosure laws. It took three years to finally reform the Senate's rules on the acceptance of lobbyist-provided gifts, meals and vacation junkets. And it may take us just as long to see real campaign reform enacted into law.

    We will prevail because it is becoming increasingly difficult for opponents of campaign reform to defend an indefensible system that is crumbling all around them. To suggest that the current system is fair, is functional and is worthy of the voters' trust is simply an absurd proposition and no one is buying it.

    Spending limits will do more to level the playing field in an election than any other contemplated reform. Analysis of past races shows that incumbents raised and spent considerably more money than did challengers and that the candidate who spent the most money usually won the election--this is especially the case in races in which multimillionaires outspent their rivals. It is especially interesting to note that in competitive open seats, the candidate who raises the most money tends to win the election. Elections should be about message, not money. Spending limits would change that dynamic.

    Every member of Congress was elected under the current system. They know, as do I, how it works and the advantages it grants us. I am aware of how difficult passing real reform will be. We are faced with formidable obstacles. But the consequences of failing to act are far more frightening.