Senator and Romney presidential campaign surrogate John McCain (R-AZ) said Thursday that casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is indirectly injecting millions of dollars in Chinese "foreign money" into Mitt Romney's presidential election effort.
"Much of Mr. Adelson's casino profits that go to him come from his casino in Macau, which says that obviously, maybe in a roundabout way foreign money is coming into an American political campaign," McCain said in an interview on PBS's News Hour.
"That is a great deal of money, and we need a level playing field and we need to go back to the realization... that we have to have a limit on the flow of money and corporations are not people," he said.
Adelson announced Thursday he would be giving $10 million to the pro-Romney Super PAC Restore Our Future, and reports stated his future contributions to pro-Romney groups could be "limitless."
The issue of foreign money finding its way into presidential politics comes up each cycle. In 1996, the Clinton administration was engulfed in a huge Chinese political funding controversy known at the time as "Chinagate," whereby agents of China funded Democratic political organizations. 22 were convicted of felonies and many were associates of Bill Clinton and Al Gore.
Romney has also come under criticism for his former corporation Bain Capital's business ties to Chinese state-owned firms, some of which are linked to the Chinese military and simultaneously seek to acquire U.S. technology firms.
But McCain's comments appear to be the first criticism by a Republican of a Republican donor for earning his fortune in China and then spending some of that money on a Republican political organization.
McCain's comments came in the context of a rant against the unfettered private donations that are now flowing into the political arena due to the 2010 Supreme Court decision in the case Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission, which opened the doors to unlimited political spending by corporations and invalidated parts of the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law.
McCain called the decision "the most misguided, naïve, uninformed, egregious decision of the United States Supreme Court in the 21st Century," and money would be playing a dominant role in American politics for the foreseeable future.
"There will be scandals, there's just too much money washing around Washington today... I'm afraid we're for a very bleak period in American politics," he said. "To somehow view money as not having a corrupting effect on elections flies in the face of reality."
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.