Tuesday, January 1, 2008

K Street McCain

New Year's Eve went off with a bang in D.C. over sources of cash pouring in for presidential candidate Sen. McCain (R-AZ). Via Steve Benen, who wrote, "John McCain's website tells visitors, 'Too often the special interest lobbyists with the fattest wallets and best access carry the day.' It sounds like a compelling sentiment from a one-time reformer, and might even be impressive, just so long as you don't peek behind the curtain." Let's take a looksie (with emphasis):

...a recent study by the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute and the liberal advocacy group Public Citizen found that McCain has more lobbyists raising funds for his presidential bid than do any of his rivals. He has 32 "bundlers" of donations who are lobbyists. Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani (R) is the closest to him with 29 lobbyist bundlers, followed by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) with 18.

[Keep reading... more after the jump.]

You will also find former and current lobbyists working for or advising McCain's run for the White House:
Davis, the campaign manager, is a former lobbyist who represented major telecommunications companies. The campaign's senior adviser is Charles R. Black Jr., chairman of BKSH & Associates, which represents drug companies, an oil company, an automaker, a telecommunications company, defense contractors and the steel industry, among others.
Former congressman Tom Loeffler (R-Tex.) was brought in to shore up the campaign's finances and operations. Yet he maintains his day job as chairman of the Loeffler Group, whose clients include oil, auto and telecommunications companies, as well as a tobacco firm and an airline.
Other occasional McCain advisers include lobbyists Timothy P. McKone of AT&T, Robert S. Aiken of Phoenix-based Pinnacle West Capital, John W. Timmons of the Cormac Group and John Green of Ogilvy Government Relations. Also at Ogilvy is a major McCain fundraiser, Wayne L. Berman.
As Steve noted, "It's certainly an awkward disconnect, isn't it? McCain is a 'reformer,' who rails against 'special interests' and their 'undue influence.' Ever since that Keating 5 unpleasantness a while back, McCain has positioned himself as the Republicans' leading advocate of campaign-finance reform, denouncing colleagues who offer special access to donors in order to fill their campaign coffers."

McCain's stunning reversal -- he's No. 1 with lobbyists! -- invites an introduction of the pot meeting the kettle.

Of course, McCain aides deny lobbyists and their cash have any influence over the straight-talking maverick Arizona senator. McCain's campaign manager Rick Davis said, "If you give to him, you know there's no quid pro quo. People give to him because they want him to be president of the United States. They can't be motivated by any other reason." Uh huh. Sure. And we can trust the word of a former lobbyist because why?

In rebuttal to a CNN broadcast that aired glowing commentary about McCain's lobbying reform work, Media Matters offered history on K Street lobbying activities going back to his 2000 presidential bid that started in 1999. Familiar names have resurfaced for McCain 2008 -- telecom lobbyist Timothy P. McKone who was partners with Rick Davis. Also interesting is how "McCain's own Senate investigation into Abramoff's activities avoided any examination into the possible culpability of his fellow lawmakers." Coincidence? You decide.

K Street McCain told ABC's This Week, "The money is coming in very heavily now." And it's no wonder. McCain's courtship of big money donors and "private schmooze sessions" reminds me of a chapter from Greg Palast's book, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.