The quartet of lawmakers behind every major federal campaign finance restriction in the past decade is suddenly missing one of its members.
The elided surnames of the four men, "McCain-Feingold-Shays-Meehan," have become synonymous with so-called campaign finance reform, but Senator McCain, a Republican of Arizona, is conspicuously absent from the latest effort.
On Wednesday, Senator Feingold, a Democrat of Wisconsin, Rep. Martin Meehan, a Democrat of Massachusetts, and Rep. Christopher Shays, a Republican of Connecticut, introduced a bill to revive the crumbling system for public financing of presidential campaigns.
The bill is largely identical to a measure all four men introduced in 2003, but this time around Mr. McCain is not on board.
A spokeswoman for Mr. McCain, Eileen McMenamin, did not return calls seeking comment for this article, but several people involved in discussions about the legislation said the senator's absence was related to his widely expected bid for the presidency in 2008.
A longtime advocate for campaign finance restrictions, Meredith McGehee, said she believed Mr. McCain's decision stemmed from a desire to avoid criticism if he decides to forgo public financing during the Republican nominating contest.
With two years to go until the presidential election, McCain has been doing 180s on a number of the issues that first endeared him to Independents and Democrats. Too bad it isn't sinking in with the public yet. He still enjoys a very positive rating with both groups, even as he tries desperately to curry favor with Bush Republicans.