Ethics violations haunt John McCain

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., may have violated Senate rules when he recorded an anti-healthcare reform telephone message, said a recent press statement from the non-partisan ethics watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

CREW filed an ethics complaint with the Senate last month, charging McCain with “using National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) funds to pay for robocalls in five other senators’ home states, urging passage of his motion” to basically block passage of the Senate health reform bill.

This action, said CREW, violated Senate Rule 38, which prohibits the use of outside funds to engage in official Senate activities. By using Republican Party funds to urge voters to express support for a motion he authored that was pending in the Senate, McCain broke Senate rules, CREW explained.

Melanie Sloan, CREW’s executive director, called for an investigation in McCain’s activities and appropriate sanctions against the Arizona Republican. “The rules are clear: if Sen. McCain wanted to lobby voters in an effort to see his motion passed he should have paid for the calls himself,” she said. “Ethics rules are not optional; all the rules apply all the time, not just the ones senators like and not just when it is convenient to follow them.”

The Republican Party-funded robocall targeted five Democratic Senators with a misleading message, describing the health reform package as an attack on Medicare. Ironically, McCain has repeatedly supported gutting Medicare with privatization schemes throughout his career in Congress.

All 40 Republican Senators voted against the reform package which would for the first time outlaw health insurance company abuses, create more competition in an industry known for its local and regional monopolies, expand access to health coverage to more than 30 million currently uninsured Americans, and eliminate massive gaps in prescription drug coverage for Medicare beneficiaries created by the Republicans back in 2005.

In violating Senate rules with this misleading robocall, Sen. McCain also attempted to block new subsidies for small business owners who currently employ some 14 million of the country’s uninsured people, according to government data. The health reform bill would help small business owners provide benefits for themselves and their employees, its supporters explained.

The health reform is set to undergo final negotiations among House and Senate Democrats, followed by final passage.

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Joel Wendland-Liu
Joel Wendland-Liu

Joel Wendland-Liu teaches courses on diversity, intercultural competence, migration, and civil rights at Grand Valley State University in West Michigan. He is the author of "Mythologies: A Political Economy of U.S. Literature, Settler Colonialism, and Racial Capitalism in the Long Nineteenth Century" (International Publishers) and "The Collectivity of Life" (Lexington Books).