May 16, 2008 -- Just one day after promising to more carefully vet his campaign aides for conflicts of interest, GOP presidential hopeful John McCain has had to bid adieu to another adviser for inappropriate ties.
"People will be thoroughly, more thoroughly, vetted, and we'll make sure that that is the case," McCain told reporters Wednesday, announcing his campaign would implement a new ethics policy after two of his advisers resigned over their ties to the Myanmar military junta.
The Myanmar regime's intransigence in accepting international aid is widely blamed for exacerbating the suffering of hundreds of thousands of its citizens following Cyclone Nargis two weeks ago.
But the day after making his promise, McCain was prompted to ask for the resignation of another adviser after a reporter questioned the man's ties to a supposedly independent "527" campaign group, which is barred by law from coordinating with candidates' campaigns.
McCain's camp paid Craig Shirley and his firm more than $22,000 for work earlier this year, the Politico newspaper reported. At the same time, the paper found, Shirley's firm had been paid $155,000 by an anti-Hillary Clinton group, Stop Her Now. (The group recently changed its name to Stop Him Now and has wheeled its guns to target Barack Obama.)
Shirley's firm will no longer work for McCain, and he will step down from McCain's Virginia Leadership Team, the campaign told Politico.
Shirley appears to be the sixth McCain aide whose lobbying work has raised conflict-of-interest concerns:
Last week, Doug Goodyear quit his post managing the GOP convention after it was reported his firm had taken $350,000 to lobby on behalf of the repressive Myanmar regime in 2002.
Doug Davenport, a McCain regional campaign manager, also resigned last week over his ties to the same firm, DCI Group.
Charles Black, a top adviser to McCain, retired from his firm in March, the campaign said, after conflict-of-interest concerns were raised in the press. Black was chairman of BKSH Worldwide, which has worked for discredited Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi; disgraced public affairs military contractor Lincoln Group; and notable anti-democratic dictators and dictatorial regimes from Zaire, Somalia, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and the Philippines.
Campaign manager Rick Davis took an unpaid leave of absence from the firm he co-founded, Davis Manafort. He is still a part-owner of the firm, but "earns no money from their activities while he is on leave," the campaign has said. Among its clients, the firm has represented a Ukrainian regime backed by the Kremlin which opposes a group McCain has endorsed.
Telecom industry lobbyist John Green announced in March he would take a leave of absence from the firm he helped establish to work as McCain's liaison to congressional Republicans.
The McCain camp's ethics body count appears unmatched by his Democratic opponents.
Sen. Barack Obama's campaign recently lost an "informal policy adviser," Robert Malley, after it was reported he had met with members of the group Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. Both Clinton and Obama have seen attrition in their ranks due to off-the-reservation comments by advisers, and Clinton has sent top aides packing after her campaign stumbled earlier this year.
McCain spokesman Brian Rogers defended the campaign's track record. "This is a campaign that is moving swiftly to make sure that from here on out we don't have further issues with the appearance of conflicts of interest," he said. Rogers noted the campaign's new conflict-of-interest policy -- circulated yesterday by Rick Davis -- as evidence.
Attached to the policy was a questionnaire, to be completed by every employee, volunteer and consultant to the McCain campaign, requiring they "disclose all previous lobbying employers and clients to the Campaign," as well as "to identify issues and clients that could be embarrassing for the Senator and the Campaign."
ABC News' Brett Hovel contributed to this report.