The Real McCain

The candidate poses as a campaign-finance reformer as he accepts cash from special interests

McCain looked slightly chastened when asked by New Times Broward•Palm Beach about all the booty he gets from businesses, which his committee is in charge of regulating. He had an appealingly frank reply. "Harris, the point is that the present campaign finance system taints all of us, including me."

That's more than he acknowledged in the past. When previously asked about this subject, he usually went ballistic. Larry Makinson, executive director of the Center For Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group in Washington, D.C., that tracks campaign contributions, believes that while McCain is taking money he probably shouldn't, he's sincere about wanting to revamp a thoroughly corrupt system.

"It's a difficult balancing act when you're running on a campaign platform of reducing the impact of money on politics, and you also have to raise enough money to run a competitive campaign," Makinson says. "McCain's in a very tough spot. At least he's admitting it now."

Would McCain's proposal to ban soft-money contributions affect breakfast fundraisers like the one last Friday in Fort Lauderdale? Hardly. "He could eliminate all the soft money in the world, but people who can afford a $1000 a crack would still meet in fancy restaurants and hand over checks," Makinson says with a laugh. "McCain is uncomfortable, but he's not going to stop doing it."

Contact Harris Meyer at his e-mail address:

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