On Anniversary Of First Keating Five Meeting, Group Urges McCain To Make Passage Of Comprehensive Campaign Reform A Priority

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Washington, DC—On the anniversary of the first meeting that set off the infamous Keating Five scandal, Public Campaign Action Fund renewed its call today for Senator John McCain (R-AZ) to back comprehensive public financing of all federal elections and to make passage of it a priority if elected.

“Senator McCain claims to have learned a lesson during the Keating Five scandal in the late 1980s – that it is important to significantly reduce the impact of money in politics,” said David Donnelly, national campaigns director for the group. “But McCain, whose campaign is run by a who’s who of big money lobbyists, appears to have forgotten that lesson and has so far refused to make a commitment to fight for real change in how campaigns are financed.”

On April 2, 1987, Senator McCain joined four other U.S. Senators and federal regulators in former Sen. Dennis DeConcini’s (D-AZ) office at Room 328 of the Hart Senate Office Building. During the meeting, the senators, soon to be named the Keating Five, tried to intimidate regulators on Charles Keating Jr.’s behalf. Keating ran a real estate business in McCain’s home state of Arizona and a savings and loan in California. The businessman and his associates donated $112,000 to McCain’s campaigns. McCain also took nine trips at Keating’s expense, including three to the Bahamas, that he did not disclose until after the investigation was underway.

Ultimately, the federal government seized the company, leaving American taxpayers responsible for a $2.8 billion bailout, and 21,000 seniors lost their savings.

Sen. McCain himself points to the ensuing Keating Five ethics investigation as an episode that spurred his involvement in reform issues. "I faced in Vietnam, at times, very real threats to life and limb,” he told Associated Press. “But while my sense of honor was tested in prison, it was not questioned. During the Keating inquiry, it was, and I regretted that very much.”

On Monday, Public Campaign Action Fund emailed its online activists to ask them to cosign a letter to Sen. McCain. The letter, which can be seen on the group’s website at http://www.campaignmoney.org/mccainletter, urges McCain to make passage of public financing a priority if elected.

Yesterday, McCain’s campaign announced yet another top corporate lobbyist who was appointed to a prominent campaign role: Doug Davenport, from DCI Group, a firm that lobbies for AT&T, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Qualcomm and Verizon. Employees, their spouses, and Political Action Committees of DCI Group’s clients have given Sen. McCain’s campaign and leadership PAC $543,760 in campaign donations, according to a Public Campaign Action Fund analysis of campaign finance data provided by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics (www.opensecrets.org).

“If John McCain is serious about his so-called Bio Tour, instead of going to a big donor fundraiser in Jacksonville tomorrow, he ought to go visit Room 328 and make a bold public statement that the 2008 elections will be the last that is so dominated by special interest money in politics,” commented Donnelly. “Only by making passage of comprehensive public financing for all federal elections a priority if elected, can McCain meet this reform litmus test.

“He can send a signal that he’s serious by cosponsoring the two bipartisan Senate bills to fix the presidential system and enact Fair Elections-style public financing for congressional races,” Donnelly continued.

Public Campaign Action Fund is a national nonpartisan group that works to advance comprehensive public financing of elections, and campaigns to hold politicians accountable for opposing reform and doing favors for contributors.