Skip to comments.Analysis: Flap conflicts with McCain's image
Posted on 05/19/2008 3:58:58 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
WASHINGTON - John McCain's latest campaign angst, this time over his ties to lobbyists, is putting the Republican in conflict with his carefully honed, decades-old reformer image. It's also giving Democratic rival Barack Obama an opening to paint him as nothing more than a creature of Washington.
"The fact is, John McCain's campaign is being run by Washington lobbyists and paid for by their money," Obama argued Monday in Billings, Mont. far from the Beltway. "I'm not in this race to continue the special interest-driven politics of the last eight years, I'm in this race to end it."
McCain, for his part, is trying to stem the woes from his lobbyist links.
"We have enacted the most comprehensive and most transparent policy concerning lobbyist activities, and I challenge Senator Obama to adopt a similar policy," the likely GOP presidential nominee said Monday in Savannah, Ga., several days after he rolled out new conflict-of-interest guidelines that triggered the departures of several campaign staffers due to their lobbying ties, including some to foreign governments.
While Democrats have fueled the turmoil, it's partly of McCain's making.
He has tried to straddle two worlds, being both a four-term senator known as a fighter of special interests and a candidate whose campaign has employed people with long records of lobbying. That duel role is proving problematic.
To be sure, it's hard to find anyone in Washington who isn't connected in some way to special interests. Even Obama, who doesn't take money from federal lobbyists, isn't pure on the issue.
But McCain has set himself apart as a crusader, taking on the Boeing Co. over a tanker deal and going after lobbyist Jack Abramoff's influence-peddling activities. And, that record has made the involvement of one-time lobbyists in his campaign all the more politically toxic, particularly when the public craves change and his Democratic opponent promises a new type of politics.
This isn't the first time McCain's reformer image has been tested.
He was a leading author of legislation to limit the influence of money in campaigns, but the Federal Election Commission challenged him when he tried to bypass the public financing system for this year's primary. In 2001, McCain founded a nonprofit group to advocate for his campaign finance issues. But when the media disclosed that the Reform Institute accepted $200,000 from a cablevision company that had legislative issues before McCain's Senate committee, McCain cut his connection.
"McCain's political biography is based on the idea that he wants to clean up government so it's easier for his opponents to raise these questions than it would be if he were any other candidate," said Dan Schnur, a former McCain aide who now teaches political science at California universities. "But now he's going to be able to turn around and talk about how he's cleaned up his campaign."
Others see continued fallout, and, perhaps, lasting damage.
"It's the biggest anti-Washington streak in the American electorate in decades, and McCain's problem is that his campaign is full of Washington-lobbyist types," said Chris Kofinis, a Democratic consultant and former John Edwards aide. "You can't be the guy who is striving for reform when the people who run the campaign are fighting against reform. It's hypocritical."
For months, Democrats have hammered McCain on that very issue, noting that campaign manager Rick Davis and senior adviser Charlie Black have spent decades lobbying in Washington. Both have left their companies but that hasn't stopped the criticism.
And, this month, the lobbying flap exploded with the disclosure that two McCain advisers worked for DCI Group, a consulting firm that worked several years ago with a moderate member of the Myanmar military junta.
McCain was furious when he found out about the conflicts. The two resigned and the new policy followed.
Then, McCain fired an energy policy adviser, who was a lobbyist representing energy companies, and asked another consultant to resign from the campaign's Virginia leadership team given involvement in an online outfit that criticized McCain's Democratic rivals.
The departures continued with the resignation of former Texas Rep. Thomas G. Loeffler, a part-time campaign volunteer serving as McCain's national finance co-chairman. Loeffler's lobbying clients include the parent company of a European plane manufacturer that competed with U.S.-based Boeing. His firm also has lobbied for other foreign interests and foreign governments, reportedly including Saudi Arabia.
All that has given Democrats and Obama fodder to bludgeon McCain, and they have been relentless.
Yet, they, too, run a risk.
Said Schnur: "Given the intensity of the criticism coming from Democrats, the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee better be as clean as a whistle on this front or they're going to be dealing with the exact same problem in a couple of weeks."
Indeed, the issue is a double-edged sword for Obama.
The more he turns the spotlight on McCain over lobbyists, the more the glare can bounce right back. Obama doesn't take money from federal lobbyists and political action committees. But he does take money from state lobbyists and corporate executives interested in issues pending before Congress. He has had unpaid advisers with federal lobbying clients, and some campaign officials also previously had lobbying jobs.
Partisan politics aside, McCain's latest upheaval is renewing questions about his management style nearly a year after his campaign nearly imploded amid staff infighting and financial troubles.
Then, allies cited McCain's deep loyalty for the people with whom he surrounded himself and a hands-off approach in which he delegated much responsibility. The combination, allies said, seemed to effectively leave McCain out of the loop and blind him to the problems until it was too late.
McCain ended up clinching the nomination in a remarkable comeback. But two months later, questions have returned.
"Is this indicative of a rather laid-back non-engaged kind of style of administering a campaign and is that likely to be the kind of White House McCain would run?" asked Christopher Arterton, dean of George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management.
While Arterton declined to answer the question, he noted the new policy and house-clearing, saying: "It may be that this is a problem McCain should have seen earlier and done this before. The fact that he finally saw this as a problem and moved to correct it is probably a good sign."
Democrats probably won't see it that way.
What a hypocritical little SOB. Obama says he wants to set a 'new tone' then spews out this????? What a dweeb. And just a few days after feigning outrage at Bush for allegedly implying that Obama was an appeaser.
Could this be the AP trying to make one?
Color me shocked...
I knew it all along, McCain is a PATHETIC LOOSER!
Don’t get to excited yet rundy. We knew all along McCain was going to take a beating, Lib media hate all Republicans. Let em dig for dirt on McCain, he’ll beat that little pinhead BHO anyway.
He should just take money from the Chicoms. Then it would be a non-story.
Golly does this mean that the MSM is over it’s man-crush on McGore?
Gee. What a...shame. I guess.
Poor McCain. Can’t a sanctimonious backstabbing weasel get a break now and then? I feel so sorry for him.
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