WASHINGTON — Sen. John McCain said in an interview posted online Friday that “foreign money” was helping fellow Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential hopes and singled out one of his ally’s most generous supporters.
McCain, the GOP’s 2008 presidential nominee, suggested casino magnate Sheldon Adelson’s $10 million contribution to a pro-Romney super PAC was a conduit for Adelson to use profits from properties in Macau to shape American elections. McCain also criticized the Supreme Court ruling that allows individuals and corporations to make such unlimited donations to nominally independent political action committees.
“That is a great deal of money. And, again, we need a level playing field and we need to go back to the realization that Teddy Roosevelt had: that we have to have a limit on the flow of money and that corporations are not people,” McCain said in an interview with PBS’ “NewsHour.”
The comment about corporations was at odds with Romney, who last year told a heckler at the Iowa State Fair that “corporations are people, my friend.” Romney’s critics seized on the comment as proof the wealthy candidate favored businesses over individuals.
The NewsHour later released a transcript of an unaired portion of the interview where journalist Judy Woodruff reminded McCain of Romney’s comments about corporations and his seeming split with Romney.
“I think that in that context he was talking about they are made up of people and that’s true in that context,” McCain said. “But to be corporations for purposes of involving campaigns, to be treated the same as people, I just don’t agree with that.”
McCain, a Romney rival in 2008 and now one of his top supporters, said the Supreme Court got it wrong in Citizens United, the court case that paved the way for super PACs. He called the decision “the most misguided, naive, uninformed, egregious decision of the United States Supreme Court, I think, in the 21st century.”
“I just wish one of them had run for county sheriff,” McCain said of the justices.
McCain is a longtime critic of money’s outsized role in politics and, despite his support of Romney, worked with Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold on an overhaul of campaign finance laws in 2002 that limits donations to candidates. Those rules, though, do not apply to independent groups such as the one Adelson and his wife, Miriam, made this week to the pro-Romney Restore Our Future PAC.
McCain said Adelson earns his money through a global casino empire, and “much of Mr. Adelson’s casino profits that go to him come from this casino in Macau.
“Obviously, maybe in a roundabout way, foreign money is coming into an American campaign,” McCain said.
Foreign citizens cannot make political contributions to U.S. campaigns.
Adelson is head of the Sands Corp., which owns three casinos in Macau. His company also runs Las Vegas’ Venetian complex. Forbes has estimated that he is worth $24.9 billion.
Adelson previously supported former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s presidential bid with more than $20 million that kept Gingrich’s candidacy alive.