In Bed with Lobbyists: Just Another Day at the Office for McCain
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St. John McVain has a dirty little secret. The vaunted "maverick" Senator who works tirelessly against corruption and undue lobbyist interest in Washington?
Sham. He's been in bed with lobbyists for quite some time.
Why do I say that? Well, there's this: McCain's campaign staff had more lobbyists on it than any other back in June. And, after the staff massacre in July, the person he hired to be his new campaign manager (resurrecting his position from the failed 2000 campaign)? Uber-lobbyist Rick Davis. Who is Rick Davis? Try this on for starters:
So now that very same Rick Davis will be taking over as campaign manager. Who is he? Fittingly for the most lobbyist-infested campaign in the race (on either side), Davis is yet another lobbyist. Davis founded Davis, Manafort & Freedman, Inc., through which he served clients ranging from Nigerian dictator Gen. Sani Abacha to "mafia-like" Argentine legislator Alberto Pierri. Davis has had a long association with McCain -- one tangled up in webs of special influence. In 1999, while Davis was working for McCain, two of his firm's clients, COMSAT and SBC, "had major (and controversial) mergers pending before the Federal Communications Commission in 1999, and both mergers were approved." The FCC was under the legislative oversight authority of McCain's Commerce Committee, yet McCain refused to recuse himself from the proceedings.
Davis was also a central figure in McCain's Reform Institute scandal, an under-reported affair in which the "Maverick" Senator used a nonprofit, tax-exempt "reform" organization to trade political favors for corporate cash.
Think this is a new development for St. McVain? That his scramble to win the GOP presidential nomination at all costs came at the price of climbing into bed with some DC lobbyists, that besmirching his otherwise squeaky clean, burnished image of integrity is a recent phenomenon? Think again:
In 2000, when McCain set out to seek the Republican Party's presidential nomination, his campaign charter jet landed in New Hampshire early on with some lobbyists aboard.
David Broder, dean of the political writers, was aboard that plane. And he duly noted the presence of Ken Duberstein, the lobbyist and former chief of staff for Ronald Reagan, aboard the plane of the senator running as the anti-establishment candidate.
Yours truly was on that plane, too, and duly noted the presence of Tom Panza, a Florida-based lobbyist for GTech, the lottery-management company that has mopped up contract after contract in the states running lotteries and provided lucrative employment for a lot of former state workers in the process.
Bush won, McCain lost, and now McCain is back again, seeking the 2008 nomination -- with some lobbyists in tow again.
Funny how Rove came up with a line of attack against McVain that centered around his chairmanship of the Commerce Committee. One wonders how it is that the NYTimes story came to be seeded by multiple former McCain staffers. But I digress ...
Charlie Black, a lobbyist who is a senior strategist for the McCain campaign, said he's so often involved in presidential campaigns that he considers lobbying his "second career."
"Most lobbyists who devote a lot of time to it are politicos who did that before they got into lobbying," said Mr. Black, who worked for former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush and now lobbies for AT&T, lottery contractor Gtech and General Motors.
Funny how all that telecom money seems to be swimming around the yacht parties that McVain frequented, jetting down on private planes to hobnob with the influence peddling crowd he calls friends and staffers, isn't it? From several telecom lobbyists to the WaPo:
Three telecom lobbyists and a former McCain aide, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that Iseman spoke up regularly at meetings of telecom lobbyists in Washington, extolling her connections to McCain and his office. She would regularly volunteer at those meetings to be the point person for the telecom industry in dealing with McCain's office.
Concern about Iseman's presence around McCain at one point led to her being banned from his Senate office, according to sources close to McCain. Senior McCain aide Mark Salter, in an e-mail, denied that Iseman was ever barred from the office or was even a frequent presence there ...
In the years that McCain chaired the commerce committee, Iseman lobbied for Lowell W. "Bud" Paxson, the head of what used to be Paxson Communications, now Ion Media Networks, and was involved in a successful lobbying campaign to persuade McCain and other members of Congress to send letters to the Federal Communications Commission on behalf of Paxson.
In late 1999, McCain wrote two letters to the FCC urging a vote on the sale to Paxson of a Pittsburgh television station. The sale had been highly contentious in Pittsburgh and involved a multipronged lobbying effort among the parties to the deal.
At the time he sent the first letter, McCain had flown on Paxson's corporate jet four times to appear at campaign events and had received $20,000 in campaign donations from Paxson and its law firm. The second letter came on Dec. 10, a day after the company's jet ferried him to a Florida fundraiser that was held aboard a yacht in West Palm Beach.
Much, much more on this to come ... you can bet on it.