Senator McCain, considered something of the “maverick” of the Senate for his willingness to embrace political positions in opposition to the Republican Party of which he is a member, may find himself under investigation for foreign contributions to the McCain Institute Foundation. While foreign donations to US foundations are not illegal, per se, they do call into question matters of conflicts of interest.
This issue got started when, “[a] nonprofit with ties to Senator John McCain received a $1 million donation from the government of Saudi Arabia in 2014, according to documents filed with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.”
As pointed out, foreign interests are prohibited from making campaign contributions, but are not prohibited from supporting foundations. “Though federal law strictly bans foreign contributions to electoral campaigns, the restriction doesn’t apply to nonprofits engaged in policy, even those connected to a sitting lawmaker. Groups critical of the current ethics laws say that McCain’s nonprofit effectively gives Saudi Arabia — or any other well-heeled interests — a means of making large donations to politicians it hopes to influence.”
While not illegal, it certainly looks suspicious. “‘Foreign governments are prohibited from financing candidate campaigns and political parties,’ Craig Holman, the government affairs lobbyist for ethics watchdog Public Citizen, said. ‘Funding the lawmakers’ nonprofit organizations is the next best thing.’”
That McCain’s foundation has not been entirely forthcoming with information about Saudi donations does nothing to offer assurance that everything is ethically sound. “The institute didn’t originally disclose the 2014 donation from the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia. After an inquiry from Bloomberg News, the website was updated to note that the institute received more than $100,000 from the Saudi embassy. Documents filed with the IRS state that the donation totaled $1 million.”
We will have to keep an eye on McCain. He’s know as a maverick. Who knows how far that extends when it comes to obeying the laws that prevent influence peddling. Maybe he picked up a trick or two from his Clinton buddies.