My Turn: How John McCain can fix campaign finance –

8 months ago Comments Off on My Turn: How John McCain can fix campaign finance –

I’ve long been inspired by Sen. John McCain. In an era when special-interest donors wield staggering levels of influence over our country’s elections, he is one of the few American leaders who has taken meaningful action to restore accountability to our democracy.

It’s no coincidence that the bipartisan reform package McCain sponsored in 2002 remains the most significant piece of legislation we have to keep the flood of special-interest money in check. And when McCain opted to accept public financing during his 2008 presidential bid, he again demonstrated his commitment to making elections about voters, not big-money donors.

Yet our campaign finance system is more broken than it’s ever been, and there’s something McCain could do this year to continue his tradition of leadership and move our country toward a solution.

Following the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, super PACs and outside groups that obscure their funding sources can now spend unlimited amounts to influence elections. This cycle, hundreds of millions of dollars from outside groups will wash over elections across the country, including the Senate race in Arizona. It will be the most expensive election season ever.

My background is as a technology entrepreneur, not a political campaigner, but I was deeply inspired by the leadership of people like John McCain, and in 2014 I started CounterPAC, a nonpartisan organization that seeks to reduce the influence of super PAC money in congressional elections.
The way it works is simple: The candidates take a public pledge to forgo support from super PACs and other outside spenders, with each candidate promising to forfeit a proportional amount of money from their own campaign in the event of a violation.
If such a pledge sounds unrealistic, it’s not.  In a high-profile race for Senate in Massachusetts in 2012, Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown took the “People’s Pledge,” agreeing to offset super PAC expenditures with money from their own campaigns.  Virtually all super PAC spending was eliminated, and  the volume of negative advertising was cut in half. 
Speaking on a radio program in 2012, McCain lamented that “there’s too much money washing around the political arena today.”
McCain is far from out of options. If he wants to see the undue influence of super PACs reduced, McCain should pledge to disavow support from outside groups in his own 2016 Senate race.

Of course, it would be unreasonable to expect that McCain would make such a pledge unilaterally. But the beauty of a “no outside spending” pledge is that it is by nature bilateral – that is, it would only take effect if all of the candidates in the race sign on. And given the on-the-record opposition to the Citizens United decision of candidates such as Ann Kirkpatrick, it’s plausible to think that a bilateral agreement in Arizona could be reached.

A recent Bloomberg poll shows that almost 90 percent of Americans think our campaign finance system should be reformed, while nearly 80 percent disapproved of unlimited corporate spending that’s resulted from Citizens United.

In years of public service, Sen. McCain has often shown a willingness for bipartisan compromise, creativity and bold solutions. This year, it’s time for him to give the country a model for restoring accountability to our elections.

Jim Greer is the co-founder of CounterPAC, an independent, nonpartisan advocate for free and fair elections.

My Turn: How John McCain can fix campaign finance –}

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