The McCain Lobby Dance

By Saira Anees

May 16, 2008 4:59pm


Sen. John McCain’s campaign yesterday put in place new rules regarding lobbyists’ connections to his campaign that appear stricter than anything other campaigns have instituted.

Among the five-point policy implemented by campaign manager Rick Davis Thursday night, no McCain aide can be a registered lobbyist or foreign agent; volunteers must disclose their lobbying status and cannot lobby McCain’s Senate office; no one with any "campaign title or position" may "participate in a 527"; no campaign vendor can do work for a 527 without a "pre-approved firewall"; and anyone who serves in a McCain administration must commit not to lobby his administration.

Because this is an internal campaign policy, it will be left to McCain’s campaign to enforce — and they may wind up busy. Several top aides and advisers will have to do what top campaign adviser Charlie Black did: He was a registered foreign agent, lobbying on behalf of Pakistan, Cyprus, and Greece, but left his lobbying firm to work for the campaign.

Others whose service on the McCain campaign will impact business: McCain fundraiser William Ball, a former secretary  of the Navy who signed a lobbying contract with South Korea just two months ago; and Tom Loeffler, a close McCain adviser who parlayed his career as a House member from Texas into a lucrative lobbying practice that includes work for  Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong.

Other registered lobbyists who are either on staff or serving as advisers include Susan Nelson, Rob Gray, Wayne  Berman, and Kirk Blalock.

The Media Matters Matters Action Network, a liberal group, has more on McCain’s connections to lobbyists HERE.

This could be a tricky standard to enforce. What happens if someone drops lobbying clients but still works for — or just receives benefits from — a firm that does lobbying?

And once people register with Congress as a lobbyist, they are always registered as lobbyists — even if they don’t lobby anymore — unless their firms de-register them, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The Senate lobbying database is hopelessly out-of-date, with many retirees and even deceased individuals still considered, in the eyes of the federal government, to be lobbyists, according to th center.

McCain spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said the campaign will not comment on how individual aides and advisers handle the new rule. She did not say whether aides who were previously registered as lobbyists would be forced to de-register.

"The policy requires that all staff submit information about their potential conflicts," she said. "That process began this morning and everyone at the campaign will be required to comply.  If there are people who are not in compliance  they will become so or they will leave the campaign."

The new rules were put in place after Politico contacted the campaign to inquire about the fact that GOP operative Craig Shirley had been paid by the campaign while also working for an anti-Clinton 527 group, "Stop Her Now." Politico’s Ben Smith reported that the campaign "asked" Shirley to leave the campaign.

As ABC’s Justin Rood points out, the Shirley episode occurred just one day after McCain promised to more thoroughly vet his staff — a statement he made "after two of his advisers resigned over their ties to the Myanmar military  junta."

For purposes of comparison, the Obama campaign also does not allow registered federal lobbyists to work on the campaign. According to a spokesman, the campaign does not have a policy governing volunteers’ employment or other work for 527 groups, though the spokesman said the issue has not come up at all.

Like McCain, Obama has embraced a standard where no one who works for his administration will be allowed to lobby it. Obama also takes the additional step of refusing to accept donations from registered federal lobbyists; McCain does not refuse such donations.

– Rick Klein

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