DNC - Three Weeks, Three Lobbying Scandals for McCain

Washington, DC - In February, John McCain stood in front of the cameras and addressed a lobbying scandal by claiming that "at no time have I ever done anything that would betray the public trust or make a decision which in any way would not be in the public interest or would favor anyone or organization." [News Conference transcript, 2/22/08] In the three weeks since, at least three stories have emerged challenging that claim.

This week, the Associated Press reported that John McCain weighed in on behalf of a European defense contractor that employed at least three of the lobbyists running his campaign. Before that, Newsweek and the Washington Post reported that McCain pressured the Federal Communications Commission to vote on an application submitted by Paxson Communications at the same time McCain was flying on Paxson's corporate jet and accepting tens of thousands in campaign contributions. We also learned that McCain weighed in on behalf of Glencairn Ltd, a client of one of his lobbyist friends, to urge the FCC to abandon efforts to close a loophole that was "vitally important" to Glencairn business. [AP, 3/12/08; AP, 3/8/08; Newsweek, 2/22/08; Washington Post, 2/21/08; New York Times, 2/23/08]

"John McCain and his campaign may think 'trust me' is a good enough argument for the White House, but the voters expect and deserve better," said Democratic National Committee Spokesman Damien LaVera. "The fact is, after 26 years in Washington, John McCain is just another Bush Republican who puts his lobbyist friends and campaign contributors ahead of American workers and their families."

Top McCain Advisors Lobbied for EADS on Controversial Tanker Deal. "Top current advisers to Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign last year lobbied for a European plane maker that beat Boeing to a $35 billion Air Force tanker contract, taking sides in a bidding fight that McCain has tried to referee for more than five years. Two of the advisers gave up their lobbying work when they joined McCain's campaign. A third, former Texas Rep. Tom Loeffler, lobbied for the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. while serving as McCain's national finance chairman." [Associated Press, 3/11/08]

McCain Intervened With FCC on Sale of Pittsburgh TV Station to Paxson Communications. In the midst of a "successful lobbying campaign to persuade McCain and other members of Congress to send letters to the Federal Communications Commission on behalf of Paxson," McCain "wrote two letters to the FCC urging a vote" on a "high-contentious" Paxson acquisition of a Pittsburgh TV station; FCC Chairman William Kennard dubbed McCain's letters as "highly unusual." According to the Washington Post: "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." [Washington Post, 2/21/08]

Newsweek: Paxson Contradicts Campaign Claims About McCain Meeting. "Just hours after the Times's story was posted, the McCain campaign issued a point-by-point response that depicted the letters as routine correspondence handled by his staff--and insisted that McCain had never even spoken with anybody from Paxson or Alcalde & Fay about the matter. 'No representative of Paxson or Alcalde & Fay personally asked Senator McCain to send a letter to the FCC,' the campaign said in a statement e-mailed to reporters. But that flat claim seems to be contradicted by an impeccable source: McCain himself. 'I was contacted by Mr. [Lowell] Paxson on this issue,' McCain said in the Sept. 25, 2002, deposition obtained by NEWSWEEK... McCain's subsequent letters to the FCC--coming around the same time that Paxson's firm was flying the senator to campaign events aboard its corporate jet and contributing $20,000 to his campaign--first surfaced as an issue during his unsuccessful 2000 presidential bid. William Kennard, the FCC chair at the time, described the sharply worded letters from McCain, then chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, as 'highly unusual.'" [Newsweek, 2/22/08]

McCain Wrote Another Letter for Glencairn Ltd. to Preserve Ownership Loophole.
"In late 1998, Senator John McCain sent an unusually blunt letter to the head of the Federal Communications Commission, warning that he would try to overhaul the agency if it closed a broadcast ownership loophole. The letter, and two later ones signed by Mr. McCain, then chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, urged the commission to abandon plans to close a loophole vitally important to Glencairn Ltd., a client of Vicki Iseman, a lobbyist. The provision enabled one of the nation's largest broadcasting companies, Sinclair, to use a marketing agreement with Glencairn, a far smaller broadcaster, to get around a restriction barring single ownership of two television stations in the same city." [New York Times, 2/23/08]