Statement by Senator John McCain on the Hagel Amendment
April 27, 2001Washington, DC – "I appreciate the hard work and sincere conviction that my friend – my dear friend and comrade – the Senator from Nebraska has invested in his amendment. I would, as always, prefer to be on the same side of the fight with him, as we have been so many times in the past, and as we will be again. He is a man of honor and a patriot. I admire him and consider his friendship to be a treasure of inestimable value to me. And whatever faults I might have as a human being and as a legislator, I hope it could never be fairly said of me that I was ungrateful to men and women of character who have honored me with their friendship.
"I should also acknowledge that there are provisions of Senator Hagel's amendment that I could support, or that, at least, could provide the basis for bipartisan negotiations. The Senator's broadcast provision, for instance, merits support. And I believe there are ways that Democrats and Republicans could come together to address Senator Hagel's central concern about making sure that our legislation does not weaken the two political parties even more than, what I believe, is the case today.
"But recognizing both the Senator's hard work and sincere concern, I must oppose this amendment. I must oppose it because it preserves, indeed, it sanctions the soft money loophole that has made a mockery of current campaign finance law, and which has led directly to the many, outrageous campaign finance scandals of recent years that have so badly damaged the public's respect for their government, and for those of us who are responsible for protecting the public trust.
"As I said in my opening statement, I believe it is self-evident that contributions from a single source that run to the hundreds of thousands of dollars are not healthy to a democracy. And I believe that conviction is broadly shared by the people whose interests we have sworn an oath to defend. My friend's amendment would allow this terribly damaging flaw in our current system to remain. It would, in fact, sanction it.
"Thus I cannot support it. Even if every other provision of our bill were to be struck down by the opponents of campaign finance reform, along with all the good work done by both sides last week in reaching compromises on related issues, even if it were all to fall, a ban on soft money – the huge unregulated six and seven figure checks that come from corporations and unions, from Democrats and Republicans, from Denise Rich and Roger Tamraz – a ban on soft money, while not perfect reform, or comprehensive reform would still be good service by this body toward alleviating the appearance of corruption that afflicts our work here.
"A cap of $120,000 per individual per campaign, along with absolutely no limits on soft money used by state parties for the benefit of candidates for federal office, will do little to address this problem. In fact, and I say this with the greatest respect and affection for my friend, it will do nothing but give this much abused system the Senate's stamp of approval.
"Mr. President, at the end of debate, I will move to table the Hagel amendment, and I urge all my colleagues to join me in opposing it."