Senator John McCain is in a tight spot. He is a principled legislator. McCain was one of only five members of the Senate to vote against the Telecommunications Reform Act of 1996 because it didn't go far enough in deregulating the telecom industry. He favors auctioning off additional spectrum capacity to broadcasters rather than giving it away for free. And he supports campaign-finance reform to keep special interests from dominating Washington and the legislative process.
Therein lies the rub. The Arizona Republican is about to take over the chair of the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee, which oversees the sweeping telecom reforms. He's also up for reelection in 1998. Will McCain start accepting the millions in telecom PAC money about to flow his way? Will he cede the moral high ground to help ensure his reelection? We hope not.
In the past, very little telecom PAC funding went to McCain. From 1989 through 1994, he received a mere $133,499 from communications and electronics sources. From 1995 through Nov. 1, 1996, McCain didn't get any campaign funds from telecom PACs. But that was before he had real power over the Baby Bells and long-distance phone providers.
We expect Congress to act quickly on the bipartisan legislation introduced by McCain, Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.), and Russell D. Feingold (D-Wis.) to rein in runaway campaign spending. In the meantime, we hope McCain sticks by his principles and adheres to what should be Washington's First Commandment: Don't take money from those you regulate.