Republican Senator John McCain recently called the Citizens United decision the “worst decision ever.” This isn’t the first time that he has spoken out against the decision. In a PBS interview in June of this year, McCain called it “the most misguided, naive, uninformed, egregious decision of the United States Supreme Court in the 21st century.” He continued, “To somehow view money as not having an effect on elections, a corrupting effect on elections, flies in the face of reality.”
In reference to the five Supreme Court justices who voted in favor of the decision, McCain added, “I just wish one of them had run for county sheriff.” He said that “we need a level playing field and we need to go back to the realization that Teddy Roosevelt had: that we have to have a limit on the flow of money and that corporations are not people.” McCain is predicting huge scandals in future elections due to the influence of unlimited money in the political process.
McCain is all too aware of this type of political scandal. He was one of five U.S. senators accused of corruption in the 1989 “Keating Five” political scandal during the savings and loan crisis. In the 1980s, there was a push towards deregulation, including the deregulation of the S&L industry. This allowed the S&Ls to take on highly risky investments with depositors’ money. (Sound familiar? This is exactly what happened in the 2008 financial crisis. You would think we would have learned our lesson the first time. Unbelievably, there are still many who want to give the financial industry another chance.)
The five senators were accused of improperly intervening on behalf of Charles Keating, Chairman of Lincoln Savings and Loan. Federal regulators had launched an investigation against Lincoln, but were stopped because of pressure by the five senators. Lincoln later went bankrupt, along with 747 other S&Ls, causing a savings and loan crisis. Lincoln was accused of defrauding 23,000 of its depositors. It was discovered that Keating had made substantial political contributions to each of the five senators.
McCain was embarrassed by the scandal and wanted to rectify this wrong by becoming a champion of campaign finance reform. He crossed the aisle to work on campaign finance reform with Democrat Russ Feingold. In 2002, the McCain-Feingold bill was passed by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush.