Skip to comments.McCain does about-face on grassroots reform bill
Posted on 01/18/2007 7:47:15 AM PST by neverdem
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has told conservative activists that he will vote to strip a key provision on grassroots lobbying from the reform package he previously supported.
The provision would require grassroots organizations to report on their fundraising activities and is strongly opposed by groups such as the National Right to Life Committee, Gun Owners of America, and the American Civil Liberties Union.
While grassroots groups on both sides of the political spectrum oppose the proposal, social conservative leaders such as Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, who broadcasts a radio program to hundreds of thousands of evangelical Christians, have been its most vehement critics.
McCain sponsored legislation last Congress that included an even broader requirement for grassroots lobbying coalitions to reveal their financial donors. But now he will vote to defeat a similar measure.
It would be politically dangerous for McCain to support disclosure because it would anger many conservative activists, including those who advocate against abortion rights or for gun ownership rights. He is courting many of them for his 2008 presidential campaign. McCains presidential exploratory committee announced yesterday that Maxine Sieleman, a socially conservative leader who founded the Iowa chapter of Concerned Women for America, had joined its camp.
In letters circulated on Capitol Hill this week, the National Right to Life Committee and Gun Owners of America warned senators that votes on the grassroots lobbying provision would affect legislative scorecards they tabulate for each lawmaker.
Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) has sponsored the amendment to the lobbying reform package that would strip the provision. His amendment is expected to come to the floor for a vote today, said advocates opposing it.
Bennett said he was a little surprised to hear that McCain would support him but was delighted. McCain is considered one of the most authoritative voices on ethics- and lobbying-related issues in the Senate.
Its a very high priority, said Douglas Johnson, director of legislative affairs for the National Right to Life Committee. Johnson said ordinary grassroots activists from Arizona who had called McCains office were told by aides that he would support Bennetts amendment.
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the conservative American Center for Law and Justice, told The Hill that he had received confirmation from McCains staff yesterday that he would oppose the disclosure proposal.
Its huge, Sekulow said of the issues importance. Its the most significant restriction on grassroots activity in recent history. Id put it up there with the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.
McCain was the chief sponsor of the landmark 2002 campaign finance bill, a history that still angers many conservatives. They cite McCains sponsorship of that legislation as something that makes them wary about supporting his presidential bid. But McCains recent action could redefine him.
Hell do everything he can to appeal to conservatives he has already tried to silence, said John Velleco, director of federal affairs at Gun Owners of America, referring to McCains support of campaign finance reform. I think hes trying to gain the support of conservatives as much as he can.
Romneys doing the same thing, Velleco added, explaining that McCains rival for the nomination, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, is re-evaluating his past positions on gun ownership rights.
While McCain has privately told conservative groups that he will side with them, he was not ready to reveal his position yesterday. He opened yesterdays floor debate with a 15-minute speech on the lobbying reforms under consideration. While he urged his colleagues to support the creation of an office of public integrity, he made no mention of grassroots lobbying.
Immediately afterward he declined to state his position on grassroots disclosure.
Ill address it when it comes up, he told The Hill.
But McCains spokeswoman, Eileen McMenamin, confirmed that he would support the Bennett amendment.
Initially when Sen. McCain introduced legislation last year it had a grassroots provision, she said. Subsequent to that that he got a lot of feedback from groups that the requirements would be too onerous on them because of the reporting requirements.
McMenamin added that a grassroots lobbying disclosure requirement was not included in reform legislation McCain introduced at the beginning of this month.
Johnson, of the National Right to Life Committee, said that there is confusion about which groups would be affected by the pending regulation.
Under Section 220, anyone who is paid anything by an organization that spends any money at all to encourage more than 500 members of the general public to communicate with members of Congress, if he or she also has contacted congressional offices directly as few as two times, and has spent as little as 20 percent of his or her time on such direct lobbying and grassroots-motivating activities, would be required to register with Congress as a lobbyist and file detailed quarterly reports, wrote Johnson in a letter to Senate offices, adding, If enacted, it will disrupt the constitutionally protected activities of thousands of issue-oriented citizen groups from coast to coast.
McCains past allies in battles to reform government strongly support disclosure and were surprised to discover his position had changed.
We saw him supporting it last year, said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for Public Citizen.
It surprises me and it will surprise the rest of the reform community. I was really expecting him not to get involved in that provision and I had received no indication from his office that he was leaning against it.
I don't say this often but... Good for McCain.
He was for the provision before he was against it.
This is too funny! McCain wanted to stifle the Christian Right, but now that James Dobson is opposing him, McCain is changing his mind. What a spineless, two-faced typical politician. McCain should be rejected by anyone who has a sense of self respect.
Can you say 2008??
it's rare that a nypolitician does anything for any reason other than an election
I'll believe it when it happens.
McCain/Kerry F the POWS/MIAS
McCain/Feingold F Free Speech
McCain/Kennedy F American Sovereignty
McCain/Keating Money theft
"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus
He only does it as a matter of momentary expediency.
Once president, he'd probably require bootlicking by everyone not named McCain.
I don't trust him.
Hmmm ... seems to be a politician without principles ... who'da thunk?
I'm glad he will oppose this, but it doesn't change my mind about him. He wants the provision, but doesn't find it politically expedient at this time.
He is also still in favor of yet another bureacracy with this ridiculous and pointless Office of Public Integrity (LOL, things are almost always the opposite of what they are named), increased cost to the taxpayer with no benefit at all.
McLame is beginning to see that Conservatives are serious about not supporting him because of his liberal views.
The illusion of grassroots politics (on the left)
Leftists in Search of Permanent Democrat Majority (IMPORTANT Read -- Soros and leftists org)
To call McCain a whore would be an insult... to whores!!
I think you read that wrong - Dobson and McCain are on the same side. However, reading the article is very hard because its written cryptic, as if they author is trying to portray conservatives as being bad for being against this bill which crushes free speech.