Campaign finance “reform” advocates like Sen. John McCain are often heard to complain that official candidates’ ads can get lost in the clutter of ads from independent groups – as if the election belonged to the candidates, not the people. Now McCain has taken this theme a step further: He doesn’t like think tanks interfering in politicians’ decisions. George Will reports from Phoenix on the Goldwater Institute’s criticism of a $197 million municipal subsidy to a businessman in the National Hockey League:
John McCain, who holds the Senate seat once occupied by Barry Goldwater but does not hold Goldwater’s views about governmental minimalism, calls the institute’s actions “disgraceful” and “basically blackmailing”: “It’s not their role to decide whether the Coyotes should stay [here] or not.” Well.
Constitutions do not impress the co-author of the McCain-Feingold assault on the First Amendment (his law restricts political speech). But the institute’s job — actually, it is every Arizonan’s job — is to protect the public interest. A virtuoso of indignation, McCain is scandalized that the institute, “a non-elected organization,” is going to cause the loss of “a thousand jobs.” McCain’s jobs number is preposterous, as is his intimation — he has been in elective office for 28 years — that non-elected people should not intervene in civic life.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman agrees with McCain that the world is out of joint when people can second-guess the political class: “It fascinates me that whoever is running the Goldwater Institute can substitute their judgment for that of the Glendale City Council.” He will learn not to provoke [former Cato policy analyst Darcy Olsen, now president of the Goldwater Institute], who says, “It happens to fascinate me greatly that the commissioner thinks a handful of politicians can substitute their judgment for the rule of law.”