John McCain and Carnegie Corporation

John McCain in the Washington, DC
A man of impeccable character and integrity

In an era of immense political polarization, Senator John McCain worked tirelessly, with both passion and humor, to engage leaders on both sides of the partisan divide to address deeply complicated and ideological issues that affect the daily lives of Americans. His bipartisan leadership in the U.S. Senate was instrumental in several key issues in which Carnegie Corporation of New York has invested for more than two decades, such as federal campaign finance, immigration reform, and national service. 

Senator McCain’s work corresponded with that of the Corporation in the area of campaign finance reform, where a generational change at the federal level — not seen since the Watergate reforms of the early 1970s — was enacted into law in 2002, in no small part because of Senator McCain. The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, more commonly referred to as “McCain-Feingold,” acknowledged the leadership of republican John McCain of Arizona and democrat Russell Feingold of Wisconsin. Among other things, the legislation banned soft money contributions by corporations and unions. Senator McCain later visited the Corporation to thank Geri Mannion, director of the Strengthening U.S. Democracy Program, and Vartan Gregorian, president of the foundation, for their efforts on campaign finance reform.

The Corporation was honored to have Senator McCain serve as the keynote speaker at a Carnegie Forum on the Future of Money in Politics, on the eve of the New Hampshire primary in January 2004. It was one of the Corporation’s most memorable and well-attended events. Six years later, the impact of Senator McCain’s work, and the work of others, was regrettably undermined by the 2010 Supreme Court ruling Citizens United v. FEC.

In 2005 Senator McCain, with his friend and colleague, Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, worked on a bipartisan plan to reform the federal immigration system, another major interest of the Corporation. Although that effort fell short, Senator McCain remained a stalwart supporter of immigration reform, including the successful 2013 efforts in the Senate to consider comprehensive immigration legislation, which unfortunately was rejected in the House. Most recently he was a passionate supporter for efforts to ensure legal protection for the DREAMERS.

And on September 11, 2008, the Corporation was honored to cosponsor a presidential candidate summit on national service with Time magazine and ServiceNation. As the republican presidential candidate, John McCain, together with democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, participated in the forum to encourage efforts to strengthen American democracy and solve problems through civic engagement and citizen service. Senator McCain, again joining with a partner from the other side of the aisle, Senator Kennedy, was a strong supporter of AmeriCorps and national service.

Senator McCain was a war hero, and a man of impeccable character and integrity. On both foreign and domestic policy matters of concern to the Corporation and the nation, he epitomized the very best of what it means to be an American patriot. McCain played a unique and exemplary role — both nationally and globally. He will be sorely missed.