Critics have pounced on presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain, saying his campaign's ties to a European company have cost Americans jobs.
The inquiries and implications began when the Pentagon announced last month that it would award a $35 billion contract for new Air Force tankers to European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. and Northrop Grumman Corp., instead of to Seattle-based Boeing Co.
McCain had pushed the Pentagon to open the bidding process to EADS, and some question whether the three former EADS lobbyists who are on his campaign staff had anything to do with that.
"Mr. Clean has a bunch of lobbyists that work for a company that won that contract," House Democratic Caucus chairman Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., said. "Some people claim the way the specs were written, it was all but certain that the company that his campaign lobbyists worked for couldn't but get that contract."
Boeing has filed a formal challenge with the Government Accountability Office, which will have 100 days to review the contract and make sure it's fair.
But today in New Hampshire, McCain argued that his interest in opening up the bidding process was to benefit the taxpayer. He cited his 2004 congressional investigation of a previous Boeing tanker deal, which uncovered a procurement scandal.
"The rather bizarre aspect of it is that I killed off a program that was going to cost the taxpayers an additional $6.2 billion, executives went to jail, CEOs were fired," McCain said.
Still, others believe McCain has opened himself up to criticism.
"It's an interesting dichotomy. On the one hand, he's presenting himself as the crusader against special interests and yet, on the other hand, he's surrounded himself with senior advisers that are lobbyists," said Sheila Krumholz of the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan, non-profit research group focused on money in politics.
McCain's campaign said none of the former EADS lobbyists on his campaign lobbied the candidate about the contract, and added that McCain has many connections to Boeing, too.
Even with no evidence of impropriety, Democrats said the Arizona senator cost Americans jobs.
"Sen. McCain intervened, and now we have a situation where the contract may be this — this work may be outsourced," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week.
Boeing claimed it would provide 44,000 American jobs if awarded the new contract. Northrop and EADS initially said they would provide about 25,000 American jobs, but as Boeing readied its appeal, the companies upped that prediction, saying they would support 48,000 jobs in the United States.
Under the new contract, the tankers' airframes would be built in Europe but the final assembly of the planes would take place at a facility in Mobile, Ala., though suppliers nationwide would see job benefits also, according to Northrup Grumman.