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Thurber, sounding appropriately professorial, also urged Congress to take up earmark reform — a pet project of McCain’s — not just in appropriations bills but also in such measures as tax, highway and energy bills. “I think some Members don’t realize they’re standing on the gallows,” Thurber said about the current environment.
On the topic of tribal campaign contributions, Thurber offered several proposals that, in his words, would make it easier to follow the money, including greater transparency in the source of the funds, but he stopped short of recommending an aggregate limit on what tribes can give.
FEC Chairman Michael Toner told the committee that his commission would greatly benefit from “a clear Congressional declaration” on how to apply campaign finance laws to Indian tribes, which he called “unique” in the regulatory scheme.
Toner also said that requiring tribes to set up PACs would make it easier to track the sources and nature of donations, but Allen sharply criticized that idea , saying that tribes would not oppose registering an identification number with the FEC but should not have to establish actual PACs.
Lobbyists for Indian tribes said they appreciated the comments and questions from Sens. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii). Johnson said that in the Abramoff scandal, very few tribes were involved even indirectly in that matter, and to the degree that they were, they were victims. Inouye said the current system seemed to be “sufficiently transparent.”
At one point, continuing off topic, McCain told Toner, “I have to take a cheap shot here,” and criticized the FEC for its implementation of his Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, saying the courts ruled that 13 of the 15 FEC regulations under the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law were unconstitutional.
“I hope that you will do better next time,” McCain told Toner.