Monday, May 19, 2008

Update: McCain Forced To Confront Lobbyist Issue

By Manifesto Joe

Last week, in response to criticism about his habit of employing current and former lobbyists for his Republican presidential campaign, Sen. John McCain and his staff set down a new rule: No one currently working as a lobbyist can also work as a paid campaign staffer.

There was a casualty reported yesterday, and on Page One of today's Washington Post. Tom Loeffler, a former Texas GOP congressman who had been on McCain's staff as a fundraiser, resigned over his status as a lobbyist.

Here's some of what The Washington Post had:

Tom Loeffler, the national finance co-chairman for Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign, resigned yesterday because of his lobbying ties, a campaign adviser said.

He is the fifth person to sever ties with the campaign amid a growing concern over whether lobbyists have too great an influence over the Republican nominee. Last week, campaign manager Rick Davis issued a new policy that requires all campaign personnel to either resign or sever ties with lobbying firms or outside political groups.

The story also clarifies the question over Charlie Black, a longtime lobbyist who (see my previous post on this subject) was with a firm that has done PR for a who's who of nasty foreign dictators going all the way back to Filipino "strongman" Ferdinand Marcos:

McCain has built his reputation in Congress on fighting special interests and the lobbying culture, but he has been criticized for months about the number of lobbyists serving in key positions in his campaign. Until recently, his top political adviser, Charles R. Black Jr., was the head of a Washington lobbying firm. Black retired in March from BKSH & Associates, the firm he helped found, to stay with the campaign. Davis ran a lobbying firm for several years but has said he is on leave from it.

Black, in particular, remains in the cross hairs of McCain's critics. Campaign Money Watch, a nonpartisan watchdog group in Washington, yesterday praised Loeffler's departure but renewed its call for Black's departure. The group has launched a Web site,, to urge McCain to rid his campaign of their influence. Loeffler's lobbying for Saudi Arabia and other foreign governments was revealed over the weekend.

McCain has steadfastly defended Black and Davis. "Charlie Black and Rick Davis are not in the lobbying business; they've been out of that business," he told reporters. "Charlie Black has been involved in every presidential campaign going back to President Reagan's first campaign. He has severed his connections with the lobbying group that he was with. Rick Davis has not been involved in any lobbying for years."

So, since Charlie Black finally retired from lobbying for international pond scum like Mobutu Sese Seko, it's more than proper for him to stay on as a McCain campaign staffer? And what about his involvement in all these presidential campaigns going back to Reagan's first? (1968, 1976, or 1980? Reagan won the GOP nomination on his third try.) And what does this suggest about the ethics and values of the modern Republican Party?

Back to Loeffler, there's the Saudi connection. (That government isn't exactly one to win over a little-d democrat's heart, is it?) More from WaPo:

Loeffler, a former congressman from Texas, is a close friend of McCain's and took over the campaign's fundraising last summer. He did not respond to e-mails or a message left on his office voice mail yesterday.

Newsweek reported that his firm, the Loeffler Group, had collected $15 million from Saudi Arabia and millions more from other foreign governments. He is listed as chairman and senior partner at the firm.

There is also the matter of past conflicts of interest involving Loeffler and the Arizona senator. ThinkProgress cited the Newsweek article:

[Loeffler’s] lobbying firm has collected nearly $15 million from Saudi Arabia since 2002 and millions more from other foreign and corporate interests, including a French aerospace firm seeking Pentagon contracts. Loeffler last month told a reporter “at no time have I discussed my clients with John McCain.” But lobbying disclosure records reviewed by NEWSWEEK show that on May 17, 2006, Loeffler listed meeting McCain along with the Saudi ambassador to “discuss US-Kingdom of Saudi Arabia relations.”

What all this indicates is that McCain, for all his grandstanding, is fundamentally no different from others in the modern Machiavellian Republican Party dating back to even Richard Nixon, in terms of ethics and values. If he wins the White House, expect more of what we've been seeing for decades.

Amusing postscript: The late, great Molly Ivins had an anecdote about Tom Loeffler. Molly wrote that Loeffler "wore shower caps on his feet while showering during a visit to San Francisco back in the '80s lest he get AIDS through his feet."

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

1 comment:

Wilchey said...

McCain is a total whore! In Arizona he openly sells influence and outcomes for money. Cover stories in the NYTimes and WaPo have covered this in the last ten days.