Alleged Russia Ties Entangle McCain Campaign Manager

McCain's campaign blasts report that aide once worked for Kremlin-backed pol.

ByABC News
June 13, 2008, 12:00 PM

June 13, 2008 — -- John McCain's presidential campaign is blasting a New York Times report suggesting that the candidate may have known since 2005 that his campaign manager's firm worked for a Kremlin-backed politician.

The McCain campaign is strongly denying the paper's reporting that in 2005, a White House National Security Council staffer called John McCain's Senate office to complain that Rick Davis' lobbying firm was "undercutting American policy on Ukraine" by representing a Kremlin-backed politician.

The Bush White House -- and McCain – opposed Yanukovich, whom the United States and others had accused of election fraud, and benefiting from violence and intimidation towards journalists.

McCain's campaign categorically denied that Davis was involved in his firm's work for the Ukranian politician – did not prepare briefings for U.S. officials or lawmakers, did not schedule meetings involving Yanukovich, did not draft talking points, and did not make phone calls on Yanukovich's behalf.

"He was not involved in any work his firm did on Ukraine, including Yanukovich," said McCain spokesman Brian Rogers.

If the account of the NSC staffer's call is true, it suggests McCain should have known about the work by Davis' business -- but installed him as campaign manager anyway. McCain's campaign, which had earlier referred a New York Times reporter to McCain's Senate office, now disputes that such a phone call ever happened.

"It's absolutely nonsense, it never occurred," Rogers said.

The story also raises the possibility that Davis' firm may have violated the anti-espionage Foreign Agents Registration Act, by failing to register work for Yanukovich with the U.S. government.

This story has been revised.