Media Matters: Media Advance Myth of McCain as Lobbyist Foe
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 28, 2008
CONTACT: Media Matters
Media Advance Myth of McCain as Lobbyist Foe
WASHINGTON, DC - February 28 - In light of increased coverage of Sen. John McCain ties to Washington lobbyists --
some of which has depicted him as a "maverick" feared by lobbyists
and representatives of special interests -- Media
Matters for America thought it might be helpful to provide you with
some information regarding McCain's reliance on lobbyists for campaign
support as he conducts his presidential campaign. For example:
fundraisers. Two of the co-chairmen of McCain's national
finance committee were registered to lobby Congress as of year-end 2007
(the latest disclosure data available), and a third previously lobbied
Congress. Another co-chairmen is one of Florida's
"most powerful lobbyists" (St. Petersburg Times, 10/1/06). McCain's
"top fundraising official" (Washington
Post, 2/22/08), one of the two co-chairmen registered to lobby
as of year-end 2007, is the founder of a prominent Washington lobbying
firm that has made "millions inserting earmarks into spending
McCain's reliance on lobbyist fundraisers, which
according to Public Citizen includes 59 former and current lobbyist bundlers,
follows a multi-year effort by McCain of "reaching out to K Street to
strengthen his national fundraising network" (The Hill, 3/8/06).
advisers and staffers. At least 24 McCain staffers or
advisers were either registered to lobby Congress (as of year-end 2007) or
were previously lobbyists, according to a Media
Matters review. Former and current federally registered
lobbyists include McCain's campaign manager, deputy campaign
manager, chief political adviser, senior policy adviser, more than half a
dozen economic policy advisers, and numerous national and state
A June 2007 Huffington Post report by Tom Edsall on
lobbyist staff and advisers to McCain found that while "lobbyists are
playing key roles in both Democratic and Republican bids ... all the campaigns
pale in comparison to McCain's, whose rhetoric stands in sharp contrast to his
descriptions of Media Matters'
research on the myth of McCain as a lobbyist foe are below:
Media advance myth of McCain as lobbyist foe
have long perpetuated a myth of Sen. John McCain as a straight-talking maverick
who is feared by lobbyists and representatives of special interests. Media Matters for America has identified
recent examples of media figures promoting just this image of McCain as hostile
to lobbyists, and feared and disliked by them. However, the reality is very
different. Even before the start of his current campaign, McCain was reportedly
"court[ing]" lobbyists in preparation for a presidential run. The Hill reported
on March 8, 2006, that "lobbyists say that McCain has been reaching out to
to strengthen his national fundraising network." The Hill also reported that
"prominent lobbyists" say McCain was engaged in "a quiet effort
by his political team to court inside-the-Beltway donors and fundraisers in
preparation for a possible 2008 presidential run." In a February 3, 2007, National Journal article (retrieved from
Nexis), Peter H. Stone and James A. Barnes reported that McCain and Mitt Romney
are "working overtime to line up influential allies on K Street who can
deliver supporters and campaign cash," citing as examples that on
"January 22, David Girard-diCarlo, the chairman of Blank Rome, which is
headquartered in Pennsylvania, escorted McCain to Pittsburgh and Harrisburg to
meet with influential donors and fundraisers. And on January 31, the senator
attended a Capitol Hill luncheon at the Monocle restaurant that drew two dozen
trade association leaders and potential allies." Stone and Barnes added
that in "2005, then-Sen. George Allen of Virginia generated a lot of enthusiasm among
GOP lobbyists. By the middle of last year, however, Allen's allure had ebbed,
and many GOP clout merchants began to see McCain as their best shot to hold the
White House in 2008."
According to Public Citizen, which also recently defended McCain on the basis of his congressional record,
McCain's campaign has more current and former lobbyist bundlers -- lobbyists
who raise money by pooling donations from themselves and others -- than any
other candidate. Further, according to Huffington Post political editor and former Washington Post reporter Thomas Edsall,
McCain has more current and former lobbyists on staff or as advisers than any
other presidential campaign. Media Matters has
also found numerous McCain staffers or advisers who were registered to lobby
Congress as of year-end 2007 or were previously lobbyists.
the media persist in advancing the image of McCain as anti-lobbyist. In a
February 7 Wall Street Journal
(subscription required), reporters Jackie Calmes and Alex Frangos wrote that
"party maverick" McCain has had "well-publicized battles with
industry lobbyists" that "endear him to voters disgusted by the clout
of special interests in Washington -- a sentiment that runs strong in this
election year. That national reputation also meant Mr. [Mitt] Romney fell flat
in his attempts to tar the senator as a Washington
insider." Calmes and Frangos added that "in late 2006, his run-ins
establishment types were a hindrance, not a help," and quoted Republican
strategist John Feehery asserting that McCain "is not well-beloved by the
lobbying world, to say the least, and he's used that to his advantage." On
the February 21 edition of CBS' The
Early Show, host Harry Smith failed to identify McCain's
campaign manager Rick Davis as a former lobbyist, and left unchallenged his
assertion that McCain is "probably most feared by every lobbyist in this
town of Washington."
Times' Wesley Pruden, in a February 22 column, referred to McCain as "the scourge of K Street."
contrast, a February 22 Washington Post
article by staff writers Michael D. Shear and Jeffrey H.
Birnbaum reported that "virtually every one" of McCain's
"closest advisers" "was part of the Washington lobbying culture
he has long decried."
lobbyists, and fundraising
of McCain's national finance committee were registered
to lobby Congress as of year-end 2007 (the latest disclosure data available),
and a third previously lobbied Congress. (Note: Media Matters queried disclosure reports
filed with the Senate
Office of Public Records under the Lobbying Disclosure Act; for example, Media Matters searched
'Berman, Wayne' under "Lobbyists" / "lobbyist name." In
some cases, permanent links to year-end 2007 disclosure reports are not
available and a link to the searchable database
is instead provided):
The Houston Chronicle
on April 30, 2007, that Loeffler has "built a multimillion-dollar lobbying
operation" with clients that have "included AT&T, the National
Association of Broadcasters, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of
America, the Port of Houston, Southwest Airlines and Toyota Motor Co.
Loeffler's firm also has represented the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on trade
issues." The Chronicle
added that Loeffler's "role as a lobbyist with influential clients such as
drug manufacturers and the Kingdom
of Saudi Arabia may pose
a political liability for McCain." A February 8 Politico article reported
that Loeffler's "lobbying firm has made millions inserting earmarks into
- Former Rep. James A. Courter (R-NJ), national
finance committee co-chairman. Courter is the chief executive officer
of the telecommunications firm IDT.
He was previously a lobbyist
for Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand from 1998 to 2001. His
Merrill Lynch, NBC, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, and SBC Communications.
lobbyists, and campaign staff and advisers
In a June
23, 2007, item at The Huffington Post, Edsall reported that McCain's
campaign has "11 current or former lobbyists working for or advising
McCain, at least double the number in any other [presidential] campaign."
Edsall also wrote that while "lobbyists are playing key roles in both
Democratic and Republican bids ... all the campaigns pale in comparison to
McCain's, whose rhetoric stands in sharp contrast to his conduct."
Similarly, the Post's Shear
and Birnbaum wrote that "the fact that lobbyists are essentially
running his presidential campaign -- most of them as volunteers -- seems to
some people to be at odds with his anti-lobbying rhetoric."
Media Matters review of
media reports, nonprofit interest group reports, federal lobbyist
and campaign releases on McCain's website identified
numerous McCain staffers or advisers who were registered
to lobby Congress as of year-end 2007 or had previously been lobbyists. In
addition to national finance committee co-chairmen Berman, Loeffler, and
Courter, they include:
- Richard Davis, campaign
manager. A July 11, 2007, Politico
article reported that Davis, who also served as
McCain's campaign manager in 2000, "founded a lobbying firm -- Davis
Manafort Inc. -- which has made at least $2.8 million lobbying Congress
since 1998." According to disclosure reports filed with Congress, Davis registered to lobby from 1998 to
2005 for Davis Manafort. A March 2000 report by the Center for Public Integrity noted that
Davis represented two telecommunication companies, COMSAT and SBC
Communication Inc., that "had major (and controversial) mergers
pending before the Federal Communications
Commission in 1999, and both mergers were approved (the Commerce Committee
has legislative oversight authority, and therefore quite a bit of
political influence, over the FCC)." The February 3, 2007, National Journal article reported
that "Davis, a longtime lobbyist and financial consultant," is
"on leave" from Davis Manafort to work for McCain's campaign.
- Christian Ferry, deputy
campaign manager. Ferry previously worked as a lobbyist
for Davis Manafort from 2003 to 2005. His clients included SBC Communications and Verizon Communication Inc.
- Charles R. Black Jr., "chief political
to the Post's Shear
and Birnbaum. Black is a lobbyist
and chairman of BKSH &
Associates. According to the Post's
Shear and Birnbaum, even while working for McCain, Black has continued to
work as "chairman of one of Washington's
lobbying powerhouses" and even "does a lot of his work by
telephone from McCain's Straight Talk Express bus." The Post also reported that Black's
current clients include "General Motors, United Technologies,
JPMorgan and AT&T."
- David Crane, "senior policy adviser," according
to the Huffington Post's Edsall. Crane is a lobbyist
and president of Quadripoint
Strategies. According to his official biography,
Crane "served as a senior policy advisor" to McCain on the
Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. He previously
worked as a lobbyist
and senior vice president for Global
USA and The Washington Group. His clients have included Bank of
America, the Financial Services Roundtable, and the U.S. Chamber of
- Robert Aiken, "occasional" adviser,
according to a December 31, 2007, Washington
Aiken works as a lobbyist
and vice president for Pinnacle
West Capital Corp.
- John Green, "occasional" adviser,
according to the December 31, 2007, Post
article. Green is a co-founder and lobbyist
Government Relations. His clients have included
Bell South, the National Rifle Association, and the U.S. Telecom
- John Timmons, "occasional" adviser,
according to the December 31, 2007, Post
article. Timmons is lobbyist
and founding partner for the Cormac
Group and, as of mid-year 2007, a lobbyist for Time Warner. He was previously
McCain's legislative director. His clients have included AT&T, the
Association of American Railroads, and the National Association of
- Timothy McKone, "occasional" adviser,
according to the December 31, 2007, Post
article. McKone is an executive
vice president of AT&T. He previously worked as lobbyist
for Davis Manafort in 1998 and 1999, and for AT&T starting in 1998,
with his last federal disclosure report filed in 2006.
- Carlos Bonilla, economic policy adviser. Bonilla is a lobbyist
and senior vice president for The Washington Group. His clients have included
Freddie Mac, Time Warner, Motorola, and the National Cable &
- Aquiles Suarez, economic policy adviser. Suarez was last registered to
lobby in mid-year 2007 for the National
Association of Industrial and Office Properties, where he is a vice president
for government affairs. He was a lobbyist for Fannie Mae from 2003 to
2006, where he was also the director for government and industry
- Grant Aldonas, economic policy adviser. Aldonas is managing director for Split Rock International, where
for Mittal Steel USA in 2006.
- Nancy Mitchell Pfotenhauer, economic policy adviser. Pfotenhauer was a lobbyist for Koch Industries in 2001. She is the
former president of the Independent Women's Forum.
- James F. Rill, economic policy adviser. Rill was a lobbyist and senior partner for Collier, Shannon, Rill & Scott
from 1998 to 2000. He is currently a partner at Howrey LLP. His clients
have included the Smokeless Tobacco Council, and Intel.
- Anthony Villamil, economic policy adviser. Villamil was a lobbyist in 2002 for the Washington Economics Group, where he is also the chief
executive officer. His client was the Public Service Enterprise Group
(PSEG), an energy and energy services company.
- Joseph Wright, economic policy adviser. Wright was a lobbyist, and chief executive officer, for PanAmSat, a
satellite service provider, from 2002 to 2006. After an acquisition, he became Chairman of the Board of Intelsat.
- Former Sen. Phil Gramm (TX), campaign
co-chairman. Gramm is the vice chairman of UBS Securities, and was
to lobby for the bank in mid-year 2007.
- Former Sen. Slade Gorton (WA), honorary
chairman for Washington
state. He is a lobbyist
& Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis. A March 26, 2003, Hill article (retrieved from Nexis)
named Gorton as one of the "top lobbyists" in Washington, D.C.
His clients have included T-Mobile, the Air Transport Association of
America, Microsoft, and Delta Airlines.
- Former Rep. Matt Salmon (AZ), state
co-chairman for Arizona.
Salmon is the president of the D.C.-based trade association COMPTEL,
and worked as a lobbyist
for Greenberg Traurig until the end of 2007, when he left the firm.
According to a September 29, 2002, Time
magazine article, Salmon also previously worked
as a "six-figure" lobbyist for Qwest Communications.
- Former Gov. Don Sundquist (TN), state
co-chairman for Tennessee.
Sundquist is a lobbyist
Anthony, a firm he co-founded. His clients have included Freddie Mac,
The Hartford, and Waste Management.
- Former Rep. William 'Van' Hilleary (TN), state
co-chairman for Tennessee.
Hilleary is a lobbyist
Nath & Rosenthal. His clients have included: SMS Holding, AmSurg,
- Former Rep. Richard Zimmer (NJ), honorary
vice chairman for New Jersey.
Zimmer is a lobbyist
Dunn & Crutcher. His clients have included: Network Solutions, the
Business Roundtable, and T-Mobile.
McCain's campaign staff and advisers include at least two individuals who are
registered to lobby state governments in 2008, and one individual who was last
registered to lobby a state government in 2006:
- Mike P. Dennehy, national
political director. Dennehy founded the political
consulting and lobbying firm The Dennehy Group. According to
disclosure reports on New Hampshire's
Secretary of State website, Dennehy was last registered
to lobby in New Hampshire
in 2006. According to a December 2006 Concord
as a strategist, Dennehy directed McCain's 2000 New Hampshire effort. McCain appears in
a testimonial on the firm's website (under
"Clients"), stating: "The Dennehy Group is well positioned
in the New England region to identify a
challenge, make the connection and get the job done. They are a firm with
strong work ethic and the highest integrity."
- Brian Ballard, national
finance committee co-chairman. Ballard is a lobbyist with the
Florida-based firm Smith,
Ballard & Logan. He is registered
to lobby for 2008. The St. Petersburg
Times on October 1, 2006, described
him as one of Florida's
"most powerful lobbyists." The firm's clients have included
Florida Power & Light; GTech, the state lottery vendor; and Honda
- Former Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, state
co-chairman for Virginia.
Kilgore is registered to lobby
for 2008 with the firm Williams
Mullen. His clients have included
Shell Oil and coal producer Alpha Natural Resources.
lobbyists, and his 2000 presidential campaign
also routinely associated with lobbyists during his bid for the presidency in
2000, relying on lobbyists and former lobbyists to staff and advise his
campaign and to engage in fundraising. Indeed, The Wall Street Journal reported on February 4,
2000, that "the McCain campaign is crawling with lobbyists ... raising
money for Mr. McCain's campaign, helping him formulate policies and
representing well-heeled clients in Washington."
The Journal added: "Of
every $10 the McCain campaign raised last year, $1 came from the Washington area or from
political action committees, a bigger ratio than that at the Bush, Gore or
February 21 edition of CBS' The Early Show:
SMITH: Joining us now is John McCain's campaign
manager, Rick Davis. Good morning, sir.
Good morning, Harry.
SMITH: This article seems to imply, but doesn't flat
out say, that Senator McCain had an affair with Vicki Iseman. You want to
respond to that?
Yeah, I mean, this is like the worst kind of tabloid journalism on the front
page of The New York Times.
And we deplored it last night. We're going to push back today. We think it's
unfair, unjust, and inaccurate, and I think The
New York Times has a lot to explain for.
You said it best, all these things are implications --
two unnamed sources and no facts in the article. If anything, they try and
drudge [sic] up all the old Keating Five stuff, 20 years old, to try and
legitimatize [sic] what's nothing more than a tabloid story.
SMITH: Let me ask you this, though. Because The Washington Post also reports in the
paper this morning that Senator McCain's staffers tried at some point to deny Miss
Iseman access to the senator's office or try to encourage the senator not to
see her. Can you deny that?
You know, it's right out of The New York
Times piece. And what they did in The New York Times is they claim unnamed
people indicated that that was the case, but John McCain's own chief of staff,
Mark Salter, said it never was the case. So, somebody who's quoted and willing
to put themselves on the line says, "No way," but The New York Times, picked up by The Washington Post -- and by the way,
many other newspapers across the country -- print basically the fabrication
from the Times.
SMITH: All right. Maybe the most significant
allegations in this, though, is that Miss Iseman is, in fact, a lobbyist. She's
a partner in an important firm. McCain has flown on some of her clients'
private jets. And the notion here is that because she had extraordinary access
to him, that he, in fact, tried to influence legislation on her clients'
I agree, Harry, that that is the most outrageous thing because they show
absolutely no evidence of anything that he ever did for this lobbyist. And ironically, they take the man who is probably most
feared by every lobbyist in this town of Washington, the
man who's never done a favor for a lobbyist or a special interest, a man who
has authored the ethics legislation, gone after the Jack Abramoffs of the world
and really set the standard for ethical behavior in this town, and without one
shred of evidence, after talking to dozens of his former staffers, all of whom
said this was not the case, didn't name a single one of them or even reference
SMITH: Did Senator McCain directly contact Bill
Keller, the editor of The New York Times,
to try to get him to not run this?
No, he never even tried to get him to not run it. He contacted Bill Keller
because their journalists, the four mentioned earlier in your article, were
running around town, spreading this gossip to try and see what they could
dredge up, and it was inappropriate and unprofessional behavior by The New York Times. And what John McCain
called, is that that was what he was calling about. He's never tried to
influence an article, never tried to plant a question. I mean, John McCain has
spent his entire career on the back of that bus having a dialogue with
journalists. Everybody knows it. He's the most successful politician in America.
And yet, you know, they try to run a story that basically is full of innuendo
SMITH: All right, we shall see. Rick Davis, thank you
very much for your time this morning.
Pruden's February 22 column in The
If John McCain doesn't send a couple of cases of
Budweiser over to the New York Times, he's an ingrate. Bill Keller, this Bud's
Nobody on the right believes the story, printed
yesterday in Manhattan's
juiciest tabloid, that Mr. McCain carried on with a yummy blond
telecommunications lobbyist, and besides, that was eight years ago. Even if he
didn't do it, he won't do it again. Besides, the story was in the New York
Times, so it doesn't count.
Not only that, the lobbyist is definitely of the
female persuasion, and if you're a Republican or even a conservative you have
to be grateful for that much in Washington, circa 2008.
Both the senator and the lady lobbyist say there was
no romance, no hanky-panky, no lurid trysts, no attempt to trade favors for a
favor for a lobbyist's client, and that's probably good enough for nearly
everybody else. The senator is, after
all, the scourge of K Street, where every defeated pol
yearns to land after voters throw him out of office, to collect the big
lobbying bucks. He voted against the lady's clients on several occasions.
The New York Times, like the rest of the media, is
hardly interested in the morality of anyone's playing around on a mere spouse.
The culture long ago rendered philandering harmless fun, and anyone measuring
anyone against any standard as ridiculously quaint (except that you wink your
eye at a pretty girl at your own risk). The New York Times attempted to employ
the scam of the carnival midway to lure the suckers into a story about greed
and avarice but offered no evidence of greed and avarice. No letters, no
e-mail, no recording of pillow talk. But sex sells with such efficiency, as any
tabloid rewrite man could tell you, that even the accusation of something
steamy fools the unwary reader. This is not Abe Rosenthal's New York Times.
February 7 Wall Street Journal
A big test of Sen. McCain's outreach to the Republican
Party base comes today, when he will speak to the Conservative Political Action
Conference, an annual Washington gathering of the right's leading activists,
theorists and politicians. Last year Sen. McCain skipped the conference while
other Republican candidates came courting, reflecting his campaign's fear that
the conservatives would give him a hostile reception. Many conservatives took
it as a snub.
Now, with the nomination in sight, the McCain campaign
is showing up -- but not exactly bending to hard-core conservatives.
"There are some specific issues they consider constitutional issues --
like campaign finance [limits] -- that they just disagree with Sen.
McCain," senior adviser Charlie Black said yesterday aboard the McCain
campaign plane. But, he added, "When they understand, 'OK, there's nothing
else we can do; it's McCain versus Clinton or Obama,' the huge difference will
cause them to support McCain."
It's not always an easy sell. CPAC's chairman, veteran
conservative activist David Keene, recently endorsed Mr. Romney. And yesterday
morning, radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh continued to lead the post-Super
Tuesday lamentations of conservative broadcasters about a McCain nomination.
The senator can surely work with Democrats -- because he's one of them, Mr.
While Sen. McCain's well-publicized battles with
industry lobbyists are unusual for a Republican lawmaker, they also endear him
to voters disgusted by the clout of special interests in Washington -- a sentiment that runs strong
in this election year. That national reputation also meant Mr. Romney fell flat
in his attempts to tar the senator as a Washington
insider. Sen. McCain "is not well-beloved by the lobbying world, to say
the least, and he's used that to his advantage," says John Feehery, a
former adviser to Republican congressional leaders.
When Sen. McCain's presidential campaign began taking
wing in late 2006, his run-ins with Washington
establishment types were a hindrance, not a help.
Current and former associates say Rick Davis, then a
top adviser and now campaign manager, assured the senator, who loathes fund
raising, that he wouldn't need to solicit many donations on the phone or attend
endless fund-raisers. Instead, money would flow from the Internet. It didn't,
in part because of Sen. McCain's unpopular stands for the Iraq war and for giving illegal
immigrants a path to citizenship. Many deep-pocketed, business-oriented
Republicans kept their wallets closed.
Executives and employees from the politically active
tobacco industry gave Sen. McCain's presidential campaign just $10,700 last
year -- about one-tenth of what former New
York Mayor Rudy Giuliani got, and well below the
totals of Sens. Clinton and Obama.
The once front-running campaign ran deep into debt
last summer, provoking a staff shake-up and layoffs. Pundits wrote Sen.
McCain's political obituary. But the senator, more comfortable as an insurgent
than a front-runner anyway, fought back on a shoestring budget. After his third
and biggest primary victory in Florida last month, he held fund-raisers in
every big city he visited in the frenetic week of campaigning coast-to-coast
for Super Tuesday -- knowing donors would want to get on the apparent winner's
For more information on the
media's coverage of Sen. John McCain, visit Media Matters' website: http://mediamatters.org/issues_topics/john_mccain