The Cable

McCain: Adelson funding Romney Super PAC with 'foreign money'

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."

The Cable

Senate finally confirms Aponte for El Salvador ambassador

The Senate voted 62-37 Thursday to approve the nomination of Maria Carmen Aponte to be the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador, roughly six months after they rejected her nomination in a vote last December.

Aponte had been sent to El Salvador in late 2010 as ambassador through a recess appointment because her nomination was held up by Sens. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Marco Rubio (R-FL). DeMint had been demanding more information about Aponte's long-ago romance with Roberto Tamayo, a Cuban-born insurance salesman who was alleged to have ties to both the FBI and Castro's intelligence apparatus.

Her recess appointment expired at the end of 2011 and a late December effort to confirm her, led by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) failed. Aponte had to return to Washington and leave her post.

Since December, Hispanic and Puerto Rican advocacy groups have been upping the pressure on Republican senators to abandon their opposition to the Aponte nomination. Congressional sources said that Rubio was confronted by these groups as well as multiple major donors over the issue.

"Senator Marco Rubio's support will be key to overcoming these hurdles and getting Ambassador Aponte confirmed. Without his backing, the U.S. will lose a stellar diplomat in an important part of the world," read a call to action by the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda.

In today's vote, Rubio switched sides and voted for Aponte's confirmation.

Other GOP senators who switched over to support Aponte were Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IL), who has little to lose by bucking his caucus now that he has been voted out of his Senate seat. Still 37 Republican senators voted against Aponte.

After the vote, Reid said that the White House had been intensely engaged over the last few weeks on the Aponte nomination. For the White House, the nomination is a way to show support for and connections with the Hispanic community in an election year.

"I'm so glad she will be able to renew her old job," said Reid. "She's an excellent ambassador. She served with distinction and that's why she was confirmed today."