FACT CHECK: Has Sen. John McCain taken the most Wall Street money of any sitting senator?

Posted at 3:55 PM, Oct 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-20 02:00:26-04

The first and only U.S. Senate debate between Sen. John McCain and U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick featured plenty of partisan finger-pointing. 

McCain accused Kirkpatrick of standing with Hillary Clinton while Kirkpatrick lobbied the same attacks, wondering why it took the senior senator so long to renounce Donald Trump.

"You know, there was a day John McCain was a maverick and would stand up to his party," Kirkpatrick said during the Oct. 10 debate. "Now, he has taken more money from Wall Street than any other sitting senator."

"...he has taken more money from Wall Street than any other sitting senator."

We wondered, has McCain been in the pockets of Wall Street?

The contributions

Kirkpatrick campaign spokesman D.B. Mitchell pointed us to their analysis of campaign contributions from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

The center considers the "securities and investment" category as the most Wall Street-centric.

Kirkpatrick’s camp also included contributions from the "commercial banks" and "miscellaneous finance" categories. We should also note that these contributions do not come from the firms themselves, but individuals.

Here is how the numbers stack up:





















McCain, who was elected to the Senate in 1987, does appear to have taken the most contributions -- more than $22 million -- from Wall Street.

But, there are some caveats.

Presidential fundraising

McCain campaign spokeswoman Lorna Romero said the numbers are skewed because they include contributions made during the senator’s 2008 presidential run.

She noted that he is the only current member of Congress to win his party’s nomination.

"That’s a different level of campaigning and fundraising," Romero said.

That’s fair because, overall, Obama and Clinton have taken the most money from Wall Street, former senators with presidential runs in their own right.

According to Viveca Novak, a spokeswoman with the Center for Responsive Politics, McCain received more than $19 million from Wall Street during his presidential run.

"For his presidential campaign, he received $10,804,533 from Securities & Investment, $5,902,217 from Misc Finance and $2,372,700 from Commercial Banks," she said.

Michael Traugott, a research professor at the University of Michigan, said Kirkpatrick’s claim is misleading.

"Taking into account contributions across a career would be a misleading comparison with other U.S. senators who have not served for the same length of time or been a presidential candidate," Traugott said. "I think those qualifiers should be taken into account."

Our ruling

Kirkpatrick said, "(McCain) has taken more money from Wall Street than any other sitting senator.

The numbers are on the mark, but need clarification. McCain ran for president in 2008, which does involve a higher level of fundraising.

Excluding his presidential run, the senior senator has taken significantly less money from Wall Street.

On balance, we rate her claim "Half True."


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