Sen. McCain's Lobbyist Hypocrisy On The Senate Floor

December 05, 2009 2:52 pm ET

During the December 5, 2009 Senate debate on health care reform, Arizona Republican John McCain railed against what he saw as lobbyists' role in the Democratic health care reform legislation.  McCain is suffering from a particularly acute case of convenient amnesia, however, since he has befriended, relied upon, and compensated lobbyists throughout his career.

McCain: I Keep Bumping Into Democrats' Lobbyists

John McCain Had Lobbyists Running His Presidential Campaigns

McCain's Campaign Meeting Resembled Lobbyist Roundtable.  When McCain met with his closest campaign advisers in Arizona, "virtually every one was part of the Washington lobbying culture he has long decried." According to the Washington Post, "The fact that lobbyists are essentially running his presidential campaign... seems to some people to be at odds with his anti-lobbying rhetoric.  [Washington Post, 2/22/08]

  • May 2008: McCain Forced To Fire Five Top Aides Because Of Lobbying Ties. On May 19, 2008, the Washington Post reported that Thomas Loeffler, McCain's national campaign co-chairman and national finance co-chairman, resigned from the campaign because he lobbies for Saudi Arabia, making him "the fifth person to sever ties with the campaign amid a growing concern over whether lobbyists have too great an influence over the Republican nominee."  Of those five top aides to leave the campaign, four were forced to leave because of lobbying ties, and the fifth because of ties to an outside political group: "Regional campaign manager Doug Davenport and Republican convention chief Doug Goodyear departed after acknowledging having represented Burma.  Eric Burgeson, who lobbies the federal government on energy issues, left Thursday.  GOP consultant Craig Shirley parted ways with the campaign because of ties to, a site created to target Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) that is now aimed at Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)." [Washington Post, 5/19/08, emphasis added]

2000 Bush Ad: McCain's Campaign Is Crawling With Lobbyists.  According to the Associated Press, Bush "suggested McCain is a hypocrite on his signature issue of political reform.  Soon, the message found its way into Bush ads.  An ad released Feb. 8 quoted a newspaper article, saying, 'McCain's campaign is crawling with lobbyists.' ... Bush then attacked McCain for promoting campaign finance reform while hitting up Washington lobbyists at a fund-raiser that night." [Associated Press, 2/12/00; Greenville News, 2/12/00; via LexisNexis]

A Brief History Of McCain's Lobbying Relationships

McCain Campaign Was "Guided By Lobbyists."  According to the Washington Post, "McCain's campaign has also been guided by lobbyists. [Rick] 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.  Their firms' clients have been a significant source of contributions to McCain's campaign. Executives for the clients of Ogilvy Government Relations gave at least $271,000 for McCain's presidential bid. Loeffler Group client employees donated $118,500, according to a Washington Post analysis. BKSH clients' executives gave $24,000."  [Washington Post, 12/31/07, via LexisNexis]

Rick Davis: Campaign Manager & Former Lobbyist

Lobbyist Rick Davis Reprised Role As McCain Campaign Manager On 2008 Campaign. Long-time McCain adviser Rick Davis reprised his 2000 role as campaign manager in McCain's latest run for the White House. Both prior to and in the years between McCain's presidential campaigns, Davis served as managing partner of Davis, Manafort, & Freedman, the lobbying firm he founded. Since 1998, Davis Manafort has taken in "at least $2.8 million lobbying Congress." [Knight Ridder, 2/13/00; Associated Press, 2/10/00; The Hill, 3/25/98; Politico, 7/11/08]

While Lobbying, Davis Was Also Paid $110,000 A Year To Serve As President Of McCain Nonprofit. While "lobbying on behalf of clients who had interests before the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee when McCain chaired the panel," Rick Davis also served as the president of McCain's non-profit Reform Institute which "focused on overhauling campaign finance laws," earning $110,000 from the Institute annually.  To some McCain critics, the institute served as a means to keep "some of the senator's advisers busy in the months before any formal presidential campaign operation would be established."  [Politico, 7/11/07; New York Times, 3/8/05; Roll Call, 7/28/05]

Charlie Black: Top Advisor & Top Lobbyist

Black Slow To Relinquish Lobbyist Job, Despite Working As McCain Senior Adviser. Many McCain campaign advisers have been slow - or have simply failed - to relinquish their lobbying roles, such as Charlie Black, who despite being a fixture on the Straight Talk Express through late 2007 and early 2008, only relinquished his role at BKSH in early April 2008. "Suffice it to say," wrote the Washington Post, all of McCain's lobbyist advisers, "have a stake in the legislation that McCain will work on, even if he continues to be merely a senior senator on Capitol Hill." [Washington Post, 11/20/07; US News & World Reports, 5/28/07; The Hill, 3/8/06; The Atlantic, 3/27/08]

Randy Scheunemann: Chief Foreign Policy Adviser

McCain's Chief Foreign Policy Advisor Randy Scheunemann Lobbied McCain's Senate Staff For Foreign Clients While He Was Working For Presidential Campaign. Randy Scheunemann, McCain's top foreign policy and national security advisor "lobbied the Arizona senator's staff on behalf of the republic of Georgia while he was working for the campaign, public records show," reported USA Today. Scheunemann, through Orion Strategies, the lobbying firm he founded, "represented the governments of Macedonia, Georgia and Taiwan between 2003 and March 1," disclosing in its most recent disclosure report "that Scheunemann had a phone conversation in November about Georgia with Richard Fontaine, an aide in McCain's Senate office." "Last year, while he worked on the McCain presidential campaign, Mr. Scheunemann continued to lobby members of Congress and administration officials," added the Wall Street Journal. "One of his contacts was Richard Fontaine, an aide in Sen. McCain's Senate office whom Mr. Scheunemann called in November to discuss Georgia, the records show." [USA Today, 5/20/08; Wall Street Journal, 5/23/08]