Thursday, May 22, 2008

McCain's Lobbyists Come Out of the Closet

A recent letter from Howard Dean notes:

I've got a joke for you.

Last week, John McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, sent a memo to the McCain campaign staff about a brand new "conflicts policy."

This policy was designed to identify staffers with "conflicts" working within McCain's organization after three advisers resigned from the campaign. One was found to be working for an anti-Democrat "527" organization, and the other two -- a regional campaign manager and the convention CEO -- were found to have lobbied for the Myanmar junta in 2003.

Here's the punch line: Rick Davis, author of the memo and the person in charge of finding these "conflicts" within the campaign, founded his own lobbying firm, and, according to the Politico, "has made at least $2.8 million lobbying Congress since 1998."

But it gets worse. Charlie Black is McCain's chief political adviser. Over the past seven years, lobbying filings show he's used his connections with George Bush and Dick Cheney to lobby administration officials for dozens of wealthy clients. The Washington Post reported that "Black said he does a lot of his work by telephone from McCain's Straight Talk Express bus."

John McCain's commitment to keeping Washington lobbyists out of his campaign is a joke -- but it's not funny. It's shocking. Since Davis sent around his "conflicts" memo, two more people have been shamed out of the McCain campaign. But why not Davis and Black? Of all the possible conflicts revealed, isn't lobbying from the campaign bus the worst? And does McCain care that his campaign manager made millions after starting his own lobbying shop? If those are acceptable, what exactly did McCain find about the people they let go?

Tell John McCain to fire Rick Davis and Charlie Black today. If he's really committed to keeping "conflicts" out of his campaign, he should have no trouble cleaning house the way he needs to.

This past Sunday, John McCain defended the situation by telling reporters that his lobbyist advisers are "not in the lobbying business; they've been out of that business." And just yesterday, John McCain said he wants to have "the most comprehensive and transparent of any presidential campaign in history" when it comes to lobbyists. How can that be true when people like Charlie Black admit he's conducting his lobbying business on the back of the bus?

John McCain and his campaign can't have it both ways. On the one hand, he says "ethics and transparency are not election year buzz words." But, on the other hand, he and his top campaign advisors have no problem fudging about their lobbying records. When pressed on the discrepancy, they give a flip excuse: Americans don't care.

Demand honesty and openness in politics. Tell John McCain to fire Charlie Black and Rick Davis today:
Let's keep McCain accountable,

Howard Dean

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