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McCain’s career built on corporate money

Related to this is the effect of corporate money on the rise of John McCain from DemocracyNow.org:

 “The Myth of a Maverick”: Matt Welch on GOP Frontrunner John McCain

Ahead of Super Tuesday, Senator John McCain is leading Republican polls, a significant comeback for a campaign that appeared expired just six months ago. We speak to Reason Magazine editor Matt Welch, author of McCain: The Myth of a Maverick.

And what’s very little sort of understood—one of many things that’s little understood about John McCain is that from the beginning he was spending crazy amounts of money. You know, he’s this champion of campaign finance, but he wildly outspent his opponents in Arizona time and time again, especially at the beginning of his career, with his father-in-law’s money, with money from Charles Keating and money from other people, and built up this political career and ended up going to the Senate and becoming the maverick we all know and love.

AMY GOODMAN: Matt Welch, can you talk about how John McCain went from one of the Keating Five—and you can briefly explain that scandal—almost took him down out of politics, to becoming really one of the leaders of campaign finance reform?
MATT WELCH: Sure, it’s directly connected. Keating Five scandal was sort of a complicated business in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Charles Keating was the head of Lincoln Savings and Loan and various other savings and loans. He’s based in Arizona. He also had big operations in Ohio and California. He was the first big benefactor of John McCain’s political career in Arizona, for his congressional campaigns and for his Senate campaigns. Charles Keating and Lincoln Savings and Loan were under investigation from federal banking regulators for a couple of years, and he was starting to get a little bit concerned about that. And so, he asked all of the senators that he had been giving a lot of money to to just find out what was going on, to ask the regulators and the investigators what’s the status. Maybe you can—maybe you can ease up a little bit. So there were five senators: John McCain, Dennis DeConcini, John Glenn, Alan Cranston, and there’s always a fifth who I can’t remember off the top of my head [Donald Riegle, Jr.]. And these five senators went and they met first with investigators and then, I think, a second time with regulators to basically inquire what was going on. Immediately, those regulators reported back to their bosses and said, hey, this feels like kind of an undue pressure; I don’t like it. And so, there was a big investigation, an ethics investigation in the Senate, and all senators received some kind of at least censure or slap on the wrist.
McCain was the only Republican on that of those five and long felt that he was made the scapegoat so that it could be sort of a bipartisan thing. Other senators received much sort of worse opprobrium from their colleagues, Alan Cranston particularly. So, at that time—McCain has described this as the lowest point in his life, I mean, lower than being tortured for five years in Vietnam, because people called his honor into question. He’s very haunted by this sense of honor, mostly from his father. He believes that his father never told a lie and was this incredibly honorable man. One of the reasons why people sort of have a natural affinity towards McCain is that they can sense his being haunted by honor and trying to live up to a high standard.
Anyway, so he comes out of this thing, and he’s being disparaged all over the airwaves, and he’s actually being challenged, really, for the first time in Arizona in a primary campaign and in a regular campaign. And so, he develops this great strategy, which is, all right, I’m just going to answer all the questions from journalists until they run out of questions, basically. And so, he held a press conference, lasted for hours, and developed a strategy overnight that whenever a reporter wants access, he or she will get full access forever. And what he found, which a lot of people find when they do things like this, is that, lo and behold, they were being kind of friendly towards him.
So fast-forward: what does John McCain do? He immediately says, OK, obviously the problem here is money is corrupting politics, which is a very sort of interesting reaction. Most people have spun it very positively of saying, you know, he recognized his mistake, he felt chagrined, he looked to try to fix the process. I think, you know, equally valid is an interpretation of, you know, do as I say, not as I did, which is something that he’s done in all other kinds of sectors. For instance, he has been trying to outlaw all betting on college sports forever. And yet, if you go to his campaign website, you can bet on the Final Four and the brackets for the NCAAs, and he’s an inveterate sports watcher and gambler himself. So he’s always—

Read entire transcript from DemocracyNow.org 

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