Sunday, March 02, 2008

McCain's real vulnerabilities

The New York Times may have done John McCain a favor with its Feb. 21 piece that led with the story about his campaign workers being worried that he might have been having an affair with an attractive young lobbyist (well, 30 years younger than he) back in 2000. That part of the story was thinly sourced, and the fact that it was the NYT caused numerous conservative knees to jerk and defend him. And hardly anybody has commented on the ambivalent relationship he has with lobbyists that was described in the rest of the long artricle.

The basic narrative is that after the Keating Five scandal back in 1989 he decided to reinvent himself as the soul of integrity, expressed in support for things like campaign finance deform, opposition to earmarks, and talk about the evil of special interests. But his self-confidence is such that he seems to think nothing he does could possibly be corrupt even though there may an appearance of conflct of interest. For example, in 2001 he founded the nonprofit Reform Institute and collected hundreds of thousands from companies with issues before the Commerce Committee, which he chaired at the time. His campaign manager is Rick Davis, who as a lobbyist represented companies before McCain's Senate panel and then went months without collecting a salary, which amounts to a gift from a lobbyist.

This Washington Post article, which ran the 22nd, got little publicity, but has more about McCain's close relationship with lobbyists. When he huddled with his top advisers at his cabin in Arizona, all four of them -- Charles Black, Rick Davis, Steve Schmidt, Mark McKinnon -- were lobbyists, some of them still active as lobbyists.


Anonymous said...

Steve Schmidt and Mark McKinnon are not lobbyists.

Alan Bock said...

The Washington Post says Schmidt and McKinnon "work for firms that have lobbied for Land O'Lakes, UST Public Affairs, Dell and Fannie Mae" and "they remain with their firms, but are not lobbyists and have recused themselves from the issues of their clients in the McCain campaign." To me that's a distinction without a difference, but I might buy it. I don't think "lobbyist" is a dirty word, and it's pretty common for political operatives in Washington to spend time lobbying, so it's hard to find competent people who aren't "tainted." It's just a bit hypocritical for somebody so self-righteous about being pure as the driven snow and passing laws to make people purer on campaign finance to be so close to so many lobbyists. Better he should be more forthright and a bit less self-righteous.