If political fixer Charlie Black were the only big name lobbyist surrounding John McCain, you could almost see it as an aberration — Black having been the political director at the RNC and having successfully helped Jim Baker run any number of GOP Presidential and Senatorial bids through the years. As if Charlie Black weren’t bad enough.
Except…he’s not the only one. Not even close. McCain defended his many corporate lobby campaign cronies today (via AP):
Sen. John McCain said Friday that while lobbyists serve as close advisers to his presidential campaign, they are honorable and he is not influenced by corruption in the system.
McCain, who has styled himself as an enemy of special interests, defended having lobbyists working for his campaign….
McCain was asked how he squares his image as a fighter of special interests with the fact that his senior campaign team is largely made up with lobbyists. McCain has battled to reform the system of influence in Washington through campaign finance restrictions, new ethics rules and opposition to the use of earmarks by members of Congress to fund pet projects.
While McCain is correct that there are lobbyists who work for laudable causes, including for education, poverty, environmental and other issues which lift up the less powerful against strong, corrupting monied influences inside the Beltway, I wouldn’t exactly call the GOP insider crony caravan that is the Straight Talk Lobby Express a bunch of civic-minded, power-shy, do-gooders. RawStory says no. You?
And, as we have seen pretty clearly, it’s far from just Charlie Black. And as more and more of this is exposed, the wheels start coming off John McSham’s Straight Talk Express. Via Joe Conason at Salon:
Among the loudest McCain mouthpieces is Charlie Black, a seasoned Republican operative whose client roster dates back to such paragons as the late Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos and several African dictators, and more recently has featured Erik Prince, the mercenary entrepreneur who founded Blackwater. (Black’s wife is a lobbyist too, and his firm, known as BKSH, is owned by Burson-Marsteller, the enormous P.R. conglomerate chaired by Hillary Clinton’s top campaign advisor, Mark Penn.) McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, is also a lobbyist, whose client interests in the broadcasting and cable industry overlapped with those represented by Iseman and her firm, Alcalde & Fay. During the off years between presidential elections, Davis collected donations from companies regulated by the Senate Commerce Committee, chaired by his boss McCain, for the amusingly named "Reform Institute," which also paid handsome sinecures to Davis and various other McCain campaign consultants. McCain’s chief fundraiser is Tom Loeffler, a prominent lobbyist and former Texas congressman whose clients range from PhRMA to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Much of the reporting on Iseman and McCain in the Times and other media outlets has focused on the communications companies represented by her firm, notably including Cablevision, Univision and Paxson Communications, now called Ion Media. Certainly it is clear that the senator provided consideration to the broadcasting and cable companies that Iseman represented, notably Paxson, in his role overseeing the Federal Communications Commission. Those alleged favors deserve further examination, but there are other areas that should also be scrutinized.
Eight years ago, when McCain’s connection with Iseman alarmed his staffers, the most lucrative lobbying contracts won by Alcalde & Fay were with the cruise ship industry. In 2001 alone, Iseman’s firm received well over a million dollars from passenger ship companies and interest groups, which include local port authorities in Florida as well as companies such as Carnival Cruises. That year, the International Council of Cruise Lines paid Alcalde & Fay a fee of $990,600, by far the largest amount from a single interest that the firm has earned during the past decade. Iseman herself is a longtime registered lobbyist for Carnival.
It may be just a coincidence that around the same time, McCain became a dedicated sponsor of bills to deregulate the cruise and passenger ship industries, which have been hobbled for decades by protectionism and national security laws. Year after year, he promoted legislation that would have permitted greater freedom for foreign-flag cruise ships to operate in U.S. coastal waters, even while he occasionally scolded the cruise operators for persistent safety problems on their boats. During those years, he became known as the best friend of the port authorities, cruise lines and others seeking to rewrite laws dating back to 1886 that protect American ships from foreign competition.
For a man who styles himself a "straight talker," there sure is a whole lotta self-dealing smarm in his inner circle, isn’t there? From The Hill:
Perhaps McCain’s biggest pickup is Charlie Black, chairman of BKSH & Associates, who has become an informal spokesman of the Republican establishment in recent years. Black said several campaigns contacted him but he decided early to support McCain, who he said was a friend of almost 30 years….
McCain has also landed Rich Bond, political director to former President George H.W. Bush and Republican National Committee chairman during that administration.
McCain has courted K Street more aggressively lately, meeting lobbyists and business community representatives in early February, said a supporter who attended. Yesterday he announced the backing of Tom Loeffler, chairman of The Loeffler Group, who raised $375,000 for Republicans in 2004.
Bush “pioneer” fundraisers supporting McCain include Wayne Berman and Richard Hohlt locally, and Michigan residents Ronald Weiser and James Nicholson. Each raised more than $100,000 for one of Bush’s presidential campaigns. Other major Bush fundraisers supporting McCain are David Metzner, of American Continental Group, and David Girard-diCarlo, of Blank Rome.
Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.) has been one of McCain’s chief liaisons in wooing K Street’s support. Lott met lobbyists at a local hotel in December to tout his fellow senator, returning the favor McCain did for him last year by campaigning for Lott’s successful Senate leadership race.
Is anyone else getting that Bush Administration crony redux feeling (H/T Marcy)…except this time, it’s the second string trying to grab that pocket-lining brass ring of self-dealing, no-bid contracts for themselves?
You want more grasping cronies? Then John McSham is your man. Ya gotta have friends. Too bad his campaign buddies reek of self-dealing corruption.
(Huge thanks to the great folks at BraveNewFilms for the above YouTube. Genius.)