April 10, 2011 5:10PM

John McCain: Citizens Shouldn’t Interfere in Politics

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.”