There is no shortage of columns which could be written to honor Senator McCain’s legacy, from touting his military career to silencing his critics who never served.  Others focus on naming a Senate building or aircraft carrier after him, and that’s fine.  But I think the best thing we could do to honor a great American patriot is to once again pass his greatest political legacy, the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, to save our country from foreign donors.

Caricature of John McCain by DonkeyHoteyI first remember about John McCain was him winning a seat in Congress, then replacing the retiring Senator Barry Goldwater as a foot soldier in the Reagan Revolution.  He had an admirable military record, and was a quick wit and sharp debater.

As a graduate student in Wisconsin, I had read Wall Street Journal editorials praising Democratic Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold and his gift-ban idea, so I chose to intern for him.  He was a class act as a politician, but this idea about limiting the power of the privileged to buy legislation, special exemptions and corruption really appealed to me.

It was no surprise to me that Senator McCain became the chief GOP ally and eventual co-sponsor of the bill.  In 2000, I became a McCain volunteer, tirelessly working Republican meetings to drum up support for him in Delaware.

Despite widespread public support and majority votes in the Senate, a small minority of senators were able to block the bill for years, until finally it broke through and George W. Bush signed it into law.  The law worked too.  In my analysis of one part of the bill, the “Millionaire’s Amendment,” (which allowed non-millionaires to match the financial power of those buying a seat) I found that only 1/23 of those trying to buy a seat by loaning themselves a million dollars won, and that’s because one Texas millionaire beat another Texas millionaire.

The will of the American people was then thwarted with the Citizens United case, one of the worse cases of judicial malfeasance in American history.  Here’s why.  The case didn’t cover the question before it, which is whether donors to an anti-Hillary video could be revealed.  The Citizens United ruling struck down campaign finance limits, which was not the question being discussed; thus justifying the ruling’s sham designation.

Since this horrible ruling, you should see what’s happened to America.  We’ve had the biggest political corruption outbreak since the Teapot Dome scandal, with political fundraising machinations worse than CREEP from the Nixon era.  And that’s not even the worst of it.  Now Russian oligarchs can out-donate American citizens, and we haven’t even fully figured out how China is getting involved.

If Americans want to stay sovereign, we’ve got to get back to the time before Citizens United.  And that means passing a McCain-Feingold bill, one that not only creates a level field for free speech and contributions, but also sharply regulates foreign influence over our system of government, especially when it comes from shady banks abroad.

McCain served his country nobly.  If you’re wondering how you could do something similar for your country, you’ve got your answer here.  Work to pass a bill limiting the power of the few, and foreign powers, from controlling our politics.

###
Image: Caricature of John McCain by DonkeyHotey (Flickr/CC).
John A. Tures

John A. Tures

John A. Tures is an Associate Professor of Political Science at LaGrange College in Georgia.  He writes about international politics, elections, sports, and the War of 1812.