White House Reacts to Indian Tribes' Exemption From McCain-Feingold

The following is a transcript of HUMAN EVENTS Political Editor John Gizzi’s questioning of White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan on January 27 about Indian tribes’ exemption from the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. (Read the HUMAN EVENTS story.)

(Listen to audio of Gizzi and McClellan’s exchange.)

Under the McCain-Feingold campaign finance laws, individuals are permitted an aggregate amount of $37,500 to donate to candidates during a year, 57,500 political action committees and party committees in a year. There are no aggregate limits on what PACs can donate. And PACs have to register with the Federal Election Commission.

Neither the aggregate limits nor registration apply to Indian tribes. They have an exemption in the law. My question, then, is, does the President believe that the law should be amended to apply the same campaign finance rules to Indian tribes, that apply to Indians and political action committees? And does he believe that Indian reservations should be treated as sovereign nations?

McCLELLAN: Two things. One, the President has supported reform when it comes to our campaign finance laws. He signed some common-sense reforms into law because he believed they helped improve the system. And so that’s the standard that he looks at when he looks at such legislation.

Secondly, we want to continue working with Congress as they look at reforms that they may want to pursue, as well. Congress has indicated that they’re looking at some reforms; we want to continue working with them. The President has also spoken out about the need to reform these 527 groups, to make sure that they are held to the same standards as other political organizations. And so we’ll continue working with Congress on these issues as they move forward, too.

Well, does he also believe, then, that the same kind of, you called it "common-sense" regulations should apply to Indian tribes?

McCLELLAN: We’ll work with Congress on these issues.

So you’re saying he would support a measure such as Congressman Simmons of Connecticut introduced, and which didn’t see the light of day?

McCLELLAN: I haven’t looked at that specific piece of legislation.

(Download an iPod-ready MP3 file of Gizzi and McClellan’s exchange.)