This is a favorite of mine, available on Senator McCain’s site. But it is so badly formatted on that site, it is almost impossible to read. Here’s a reformatted version (with apologies if the Senator believes there’s a copyright problem with this remix). You can see all McCain’s speeches here. I’ve added some emphasis in places. And you can read about the famous 1999 McCain v. McConnell debate on corruption here.
Bedford, New Hampshire, June 30, 1999 ;Senator John McCain (R-AZ) today delivered the following remarks regarding Campaign Finance Reform.
We are blessed to be Americans, not just in times of prosperity, but at all times. We are a part of something noble; a great experiment to prove to the world that democracy is not only the most effective form of government, but the only moral government.
And, at least in years past, we felt more than lucky to be Americans. We felt proud. But, today, we confront a very serious challenge to our political system, as dangerous in its way as war and depression have been in the past. And it will take the best efforts of every public- spirited American to defeat it.
The threat that concerns me is the pervasive public cynicism that is hurting our democracy.
I’m a conservative, and I believe it is a very healthy thing for Americans to be skeptical about the purposes and practices of public officials and refrain from expecting too much from their government. Self-reliance is the, ethic that made America great.
But healthy skepticism has become widespread cynicism bordering on alienation, and that worries me greatly.
Government is intended to support our constitutional purposes to “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”
When the people come to believe that government is so corrupt that it no longer serves these ends, our culture could fragment beyond recognition as people seek substitutes for the unifying values of patriotism.
We are a prosperous country, but many Americans, particularly the young, can’t see beyond the veil of their cynicism and indifference. They can’t imagine themselves as part of a cause greater than their self-interest.
And with every new Dow Jones record something gnaws at my conscience, telling me not to be lulled into a false contentment, that something is going wrong with the American way of life.
This country has survived many difficult challenges: a civil war, world war, depression, the civil rights struggle, a cold war. All were just causes. They were good fights. They were patriotic challenges.
Now, we have a new patriotic challenge for a new century: declaring war on the cynicism that threatens our public institutions, our culture, and, ultimately, our private happiness. It is a great and just cause, worthy of our best service.
But those of us privileged to hold public office have ourselves to blame for the sickness in American public life today. It is we who have squandered the public trust.
We who have, time and again, placed our personal and partisan interests before the national interest, earning the public’s contempt for our poll-driven policies, our phony posturing, the lies we call spin and the damage control we substitute for progress.
And we are the defenders of a campaign finance system that is nothing less than an elaborate influence peddling scheme in which both parties conspire to stay in office by selling the country to the highest bidder.
I want to take our politics and our government back from the special interests. I want to take them back from people like Roger Tamraz, who gave $300,000 to the Democratic Party and when he didn’t get what he wanted, promised to spend “$600,000 next time.”
The opponents of campaign finance reform will tell you the voters, particularly Republican voters, don’t care about this issue.
They are wrong.
Most Americans care very much that it is now legal for a subsidiary of a corporation owned by the Chinese Army to give unlimited amounts of money to American political campaigns.
Most Americans care very much that the Lincoln bedroom has become a Motel 6 where the President of the United States serves as the bellhop.
Most Americans care very much when monks and nuns abandon their vows of poverty and pay tens of thousands of dollars to have spiritual communion with the Vice President.
I think most Republicans are outraged when our party abandons the fight to reform government, to make it smaller and less removed in style and substance from the people it serves.
Most Republicans are outraged when their leaders give up the fight that Ronald Reagan led in order to preserve a financial advantage over the Democrats.
I think most Republicans understand that soft money - the enormous sums of money given to both parties by just about every special interest in the country — corrupts our political ideals whether it comes from big business or from labor bosses and trial lawyers.
I am a conservative and I’m running for President to restore national pride and broaden our freedom by reforming the practices of government and politics. I want to reform our tax code. I want to reduce government by waging a relentless war against wasteful spending. I want to reform and protect Social Security and Medicare. I want to reform our failing education system. I want to restructure our military to defend us against the security threats of the next century. I want to reform our liability laws. I want to genuinely deregulate the telecommunications industry that is the engine of our current prosperity.
All these reforms and more are vitally important to America’s future.
But we won’t reform anything until we first reform the way we finance our political campaigns.
As long as special interests dominate campaigns, they will dominate legislation as well. Until we abolish soft money, Americans will never have a government that works as hard for them as it does for the special interests.
During hearings for the 1996 Telecommunications Act, every company affected by the legislation had purchased a seat at the table With soft money. Consequently, the bill attempted to protect them all, a goal that is obviously incompatible with competition. Consumers, who only give us their votes, had no seat at the table, and the lower prices that competition produces never materialized. Cable rates went up. Phone rates went up. And huge broadcasting giants received for free billions of dollars in digital spectrum, property that belonged to the American people.
In the last several years, while Republicans controlled Congress, special interest earmarks in appropriations bills have dramatically increased. The rise in pork barrel spending is directly related to the rise of soft money, as Republicans and Democrats scramble to reward major donors to our campaigns.
The American people want their-money spent on their priorities, and their priorities aren’t ethanol subsidies and free advertising for giant corporations.
Imagine the promises we could keep and the good we could do if politicians stopped treating the federal treasury as a duty free shop for soft money donors. For instance, if we stopped giving away ethanol and oil and gas subsidies we could use the money saved to support a three-year school voucher test in almost all of the largest school districts in America. Our failure to cut taxes as much as we should or begin the systemic reform of the tax code is not attributable solely to the opposition of the other party. For the sake of soft money we have put tax loopholes for special interests ahead of tax relief for working families, and we have made the tax code a bewildering 44,000 page catalogue of favors for a privileged few and a chamber of horrors for the rest of America.
Republicans should be proud that we have finally forced the Clinton Administration to stop making dangerous cuts in defense spending.
But we should be ashamed when we waste billions of dollars on weapons systems that have no use in the post Cold War era while 12,000 enlisted personnel, proud young men and women, live on food stamps.
We should be ashamed when campaign donations cause us to look the other way while sensitive security technology is transferred to countries that very well may use that technology to threaten Americans interests and values.
That’s the kind of defense that soft money buys us, and this country deserves better service from us than that.
In truth, we are all shortchanged by soft money, liberal and conservative alike.
All of our ideals are sacrificed.
We are all corrupted.
I know that is a harsh judgment. But it is, I am sorry to say, a fair one. And even if our own consciences were to allow us to hide from it, the people we are privileged to serve will not.
Most Americans believe we conspire to hold on to every political advantage we have, lest we jeopardize our incumbency by a single lost vote.
Most Americans believe we would pay any price, bear any burden to ensure to success of our personal ambitions - no matter how injurious the effect might be to the national interest.
And who can blame them when the wealthiest Americans and richest organized interests can make six figure donations to political parties and gain the special access to power such generosity confers on the donor.
I’ve been told that there is no room for this issue in Republican primaries. Well, I intend to make room for it.
I will call for the reform of our political system everywhere I go in this campaign.
I will ask my supporters to make campaign reform their top priority, and I’ll challenge my opponents to declare their independence from the political welfare state.
Because I’m not running for President to be someone. I’m running to do something. This is your country, my friends. And I’m running for President to give it back to you.
In the next few weeks, Senator Russ Feingold and I are going to attempt once again to force the United States Senate to abolish soft money. We’re going to fight as hard as we can. But we need your help.
The defenders of the status quo prevailed last time because they convinced the Senate that Americans don’t care about this issue. I ask every American who cares about our country’s future to let Congress know that you want us to put the national interest before the special interests. I ask every Republican voter to let my colleagues know that you still believe in the cause Ronald Reagan fought for, the cause you elected a Republican Congress to serve, the cause of less government and more freedom.
That cause should not be sacrificed for one more hour to preserve a campaign system that values money above principles and integrity.
Even if it were true that Americans don’t care about campaign finance reform- and I do not for one moment believe that it is - I would not give up this fight.
I would rather not be President than win that high office on false pretenses.
How could I ask Americans to enlist in the fight against national cynicism while I support the underlying cause of the public’s disgust with politics? We will never make any real progress in restoring the public’s faith in our government and politics until those of us privileged to hold office prove that we will act in the people’s best interests even if we must risk our own careers to do so.
My friends, I am for campaign finance reform, and I want anyone who might vote for me to know that if I am elected we will have campaign finance reform.
Anyone who is satisfied with the status quo should vote for someone else.
But anyone who believes that America is greater than the sum of its special interests should stand with me.
I stand my ground for this cause for my country’s sake, and also for the sake of my self-respect.
When I was a young man, and all glory was self-glory, I responded aggressively and often irresponsibly to anyone who questioned my honor. I still remember how zealously a boy attended the needs of his self-respect.
But as I grew older, and the challenges to my self-respect became more varied and difficult, I was surprised to discover that while my sense of honor had matured, its defense mattered even more to me than it did when I believed that honor was such a frail thing that any empty challenge threatened it.
I believe public service is an honorable profession. I believed that when I entered the Naval Academy at seventeen and I believe it still. I have grown old in my country’s service, and I should be content with a life that has been more blessed than I deserve.
But the people whom I serve believe that the means by which I came to office corrupt me. And that shames me. That shames me. Their contempt is a stain upon my honor, and I cannot live with it.
So for your sake, for the sake of your children, for the sake of an America that remains the greatest force for good on earth, and, admittedly, for the reputation of an American who has been privileged to hold a public trust for over forty years, please join me in this fight for freedom and reform.
It’s your country. Let’s go take it back.
(1) What are the plans for accommodations along the way? Camping?
We will find or provide a bed (and heat) for anyone who walks and needs one.
(2) I saw that your website mentioned the potential of a support van, are you planning on hiking with full camping gear? None at all? Somewhere in the middle?
People are free to hike as they wish (though there will be safety requirements everyone must follow). The van will make it possible for people to just walk if they want to. Anything else you need, the van can carry.
(3) How would you feel about having me along for the duration? I don’t want to impose if you were expecting more periodic drop-ins from participants.
We would LOVE more walkers along for the duration. Of course.
Anyone interested can sign up here. But if you’re thinking of joining us, please sign up. We need to begin a conversation about training and safety, and need to be certain we can meet the obligation in answer #1.
A letter sent to friends:
In January, I will join others in a march across New Hampshire (the long way). The march will last two weeks. We will cover 185 miles. And along the way, we will be recruiting citizens from New Hampshire to join the #NHRebellion.
The #NHRebellion was inspired by the late Doris Haddock, aka, Granny D, a citizen of New Hampshire, and who, at the age of 88, walked across the country with a simple sign on her chest: “campaign finance reform.”
Long before I came to the issue, Granny D was recruiting anyone she could to the critically important cause of changing the way campaigns are financed. She believed, as I do, that the current system is a kind of “corruption.” And she believed, as I have come to believe, that unless we find a way to change it, our government will be incapable of addressing sensibly any of the critical issues that it must resolve. Granny D devoted the last part of her life to
this fight. The #NHRebellion will continue her work.
The point of the January march is to focus the citizens of New Hampshire on this critical issue of corruption, so that they in turn will focus the candidates in 2016 on corruption too. We will be asking people from across the state to ask the candidates they will inevitably meet over the next two years: “How will you end this corruption?” And the hope is that if New Hampshire makes this an issue, it might well become an issue for the nation as well.
The #NHRebellion plans to walk the state three times between now and the primary in 2016. I’ve agreed to participate in at least the first.
So on January 11 — the day my friend Aaron Swartz
died — we will begin at the place the first ballots of the 2016 election will be cast. And on January 24 — the day Granny D was born — we will end with a party in Nashua. In between, we will have as many conversations with as many people as we can about the work Granny D started, and how we can now complete it.
I’m writing to ask for your help with this project.
Anything from simply sharing this email with people who you think might be interested, to helping to sponsor the walk, to actually walking with us, for part or the whole way — I’d be grateful for everything, as this will be a very difficult slog (not the walk, but to win this issue).
But why? Why would I walk for 2 weeks in the freezing winter of New Hampshire?
I’ve spent the last 6 years working on this question of corruption. Aaron Swartz convinced me to take it up. Since I did, I’ve spoken about it more than 250 speeches to thousands of people across the world. (Here’s a mercifully short example: TED talk).
But as I’ve done this, I’ve been struck by the claim of almost every “expert” that “ordinary Americans don’t care about this issue.” Not the sort of people who turn up to a lecture by a law professor. But the rest of America, with a million other concerns, working hard to ignore all things political.
I want to understand how to make this issue compelling to these people too, and face to face. I want to learn how to talk about it so that it connects and is meaningful. Because I am absolutely convinced that we must find a way to rally America to this cause. And I am reluctantly convinced that more of us need to learn how better to talk to America about this cause.
So that’s what I will be doing. We will have a number of events across the state. But the most important part for me will be the informal conversations and what it will teach me. I want to learn something from this about how to make this issue important. And I’d be grateful to you for your help in making it possible.
You can sponsor me on this walk by clicking here.
And you can learn more about the march — including how to join, even for just part of the walk — at #NHRebellion.
Thanks for reading this far, and for any help that you can provide.
I am really grateful for the advice given in response to my last post about how to prepare for the 185 mile walk we’re about to launch in New Hampshire (in January).
I’ve set up a wiki to gather wisdom about the best practices/prep for that walk. I’ll be migrating the advice I received before in the comments to the last post, but I’d be grateful to anyone with experience who can contribute.
[#tl;dr translation: Bing now let’s you easily filter on the basis of licenses, aka, the right to reuse (beyond the rights of fair use). Bravo, Bing!]
For years I have been arguing that there’s something ridiculous about the way search engines enable people to find and use content — given the rule of copyright. While Yahoo, then Google, then Bing all enabled people to dig deep into the bowels of “advanced search” to filter search results on the basis of the license, 99% of users don’t know how to dig (Minecraft notwithstanding). So we have a world the the law restricts reuse, but the architecture of search engines doesn’t make it simple for people to know which stuff they have the right to reuse.
The obvious answer, I have been arguing, is for the search engines to more easily permit content to be filtered on the basis of the right to reuse. So just as the Google Image search bar lets me filter on the basis of size, color, type and time, it should also, I’ve argued, make it easy to filter on the basis of the right to reuse.
I was launched on just such a tirade last week, when I was met by a puzzled look from a Microsoft executive. “Show me what you mean,” he asked. So I went to the Google Image search page, searched on “cats” and showed him all the ways I could filter those images of cats. The right to reuse was not on that list.
"Do the same search in Bing," he told me.
I did. And there, on the image search bar, it is: “License” — which, if you extend, gives you the full range of permissions paralleling the range of CC licenses.
I am completely embarrassed by my google-induced ignorance. And I’m completely committed to tying Bing now that it makes permissions so simple. I’m hopeful they can think more about whether “license” is the right word here. But regardless, Microsoft has taken an important step to make easier for users to use the content they are free to use, and respect the rights of copyright owners who don’t want their content reused.
I’ve begun some training for this 185 mile march through New Hampshire in January. But I’d be really eager for expert advice about how one prepares for this. I’m walking about 7 miles a day between now and then, in my boots, suffering the blisters already. But what else should one do? And how best should we be prepared?
Help (other than: “don’t!”) really appreciated.
So the march is on. Fifteen years after Granny D started her march across the United States in the name of “campaign finance reform,” we will begin our march across New Hampshire (the long way), in the name of “corruption reform.”
We’ve launched the #NHRebellion website. Check out the route, and think about what you can do. We need people to walk — 185 miles, in January, but we guarantee free coffee. Even if you can’t afford the 2 weeks it will take, you can sign up for any part. And best of all: Once you sign up, they give you this really cool URL so people can pledge to support you, which means supports the #NHRebellion, which means supports the next step to fixing this mess. Here’s my sponsorship link: bit.ly/SponsorLessig. here’s my “please sponsor me” request.
Thanks to the Americans Who Tell The Truth project for permitting us to use the beautiful image of Granny D. And please do what you can to help spread the word.