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McCain Accuses Adelson of Using “Foreign Money” to Buy Election for Romney

John McCain, the 2008 Republican nominee for President and an endorser of Mitt Romney, has launched a broadside against Romney’s new patron, Sheldon Adelson, alleging that Adelson is using foreign money for his SuperPAC donations to help Republicans win the White House in 2012.

“Much of Mr. Adelson’s casino profits that go to him come from his casino in Macau, which says that obviously, maybe in a roundabout way foreign money is coming into an American political campaign,” McCain said in an interview on PBS’s News Hour.

“That is a great deal of money, and we need a level playing field and we need to go back to the realization… that we have to have a limit on the flow of money and corporations are not people,” he said.

That’s a pretty serious charge, that Adelson is using foreign money to help purchase an election. It’s a more serious charge when you consider who is making it: an avowed supporter of the same candidate as Adelson!

McCain, after keeping lockstep with Republicans in the wake of the Citizens United ruling, has returned back to a more reformist posture on campaign finance laws. On Thursday, the Arizona Senator called the Citizens United decision “the most misguided, naïve, uninformed, egregious decision of the United States Supreme Court in the 21st Century.” Of course, when McCain had the opportunity to mitigate some of the effects of the decision through the DISCLOSE Act, which would have at least forced transparency on who spent campaign money, he joined all Republicans as the deciding vote in blocking it. One of the pieces of the DISCLOSE Act would have blocked campaign spending by foreign governments or their subsidiaries. McCain isn’t alleging quite the same thing, but is saying that Adelson will use foreign money for domestic electoral purposes.

Adelson, who backed Newt Gingrich in the primaries, delivered the first $10 million of what he said would be a “limitless” series of donations to a pro-Romney Super PAC called Restore Our Future.

McCain concluded that “There will be scandals, there’s just too much money washing around Washington today… I’m afraid we’re for a very bleak period in American politics. To somehow view money as not having a corrupting effect on elections flies in the face of reality.” But we should recall that he had the opportunity to stop some of those corrupting practices, and didn’t take it, preferring to wait for the corruption to unfold.

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David Dayen

David Dayen