Washington Matters


McCain's Lobbyist Links: Grist for Fall Ads


The McCain campaign is taking more steps to remove even the appearance that the GOP-nominee-in-waiting is too close to the Washington lobbyists he's fond of attacking, requiring all lobbyists to either resign from the campaign or officially suspend ties to their clients. By doing so, McCain hopes to put the controversy behind him, but it may be too late. Democrats are determined to use the connections to argue that McCain is too close to inside Washington to be a true agent of change.

If it were one or two departures of lobbyists from his campaign staff, McCain might weather the criticism that he's inextricably linked to Washington's power and influence game after 22 years in the Senate and 4 years in the House. Nearly 17 years has passed since McCain received a mild rebuke in the Charles H. Keating savings and loan federal influence probe, after which he eagerly led efforts against special interest influence. 

But news this morning as reported by the Washington Post of a fifth top aide resigning for potential conflict of lobbying interests shows a trend McCain would rather not have scrutinized. The latest departure is finance co-chairman Tom Loeffler, a former congressman who lobbied for foreign interests.

The large number of lobbyists who worked for McCain gives Democrats what they see as a good campaign issue. If the GOP nominee has to take a fire hose to his campaign staff to wash out influence, they argue, how much of it has there been and how much of it remains.

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Still on the team is top political advisor Charles Black, who has temporarily severed ties to the lobbying shop he founded in 1984, BKSH & Associates. MoveOn.org has a particularly harsh anti-McCain ad up on YouTube calling for Black's ouster from the campaign, whether he has severed ties with his firm or not. 

The issue is not likely to go away. Even with the new policy, McCain will find it difficult to present himself as being free and clear of lobbyists after nearly a quarter of a century in Washington. The sheer number of lobbyists who have now left his campaign under pressure is evidence that this issue won't fade quickly.

 




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