Posted by Curt on 21 February, 2008 at 7:05 pm. 4 comments already!

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Tom Maguire has up a great post detailing many items of significance that some of us may have forgotten about this McCain non-story. First up is this TNR piece which purports to tell us all the backroom dealings going on at The Times regarding the story:

The McCain investigation began in November, after Rutenberg, who covers the political media and advertising beat, got a tip. Within a few days, Washington bureau chief Dean Baquet assigned Thompson and Labaton to join the project and, later, conservative beat reporter David Kirkpatrick to chip in as well. Labaton brought his expertise with regulatory issues to the team…

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Of the reporters in the room, Bennett knew Labaton the best. In the 1990s, Labaton had covered the Whitewater investigation, and Bennett viewed him as a straight-shooting, accurate reporter who could be reasoned with.

Why am I bolding the name of Mr. Labaton? After reading the piece don’t you come away from it feeling that this investigation JUST started a few months ago and Mr. Labaton just so happened to be the guy picked to run with it? Well lets go back in time to the 2000 race and a few article that Tom found:

“>McCain Urged F.C.C. Action On Issue Involving Supporter
By STEPHEN LABATON
Published: January 6, 2000

Senator John McCain, who has made fixing the corrosive influence of money in politics the cornerstone of his campaign, twice demanded in recent weeks that a regulatory agency take action in a matter that ultimately benefited a major contributor to his presidential campaign.

January 7, 2000
Issue for McCain Is Matching Record With His Rhetoric
By STEPHEN LABATON

Eleven years ago, Senator John McCain defended himself against ethics accusations for his ties to a corrupt savings association and a campaign contributor by saying that he had performed a legitimate constituent service when he met with regulators who were preparing to seize the institution.

What happened with that “scandal?” McCain released years worth of correspondence to the media showing how he had worked to get projects going, sometimes without the bidding of a lobbyist, sometimes with the bidding.

January 9, 2000
Responding to Criticism, McCain Releases Letters
By James Risen

Senator John McCain of Arizona released hundreds of letters today that he has sent to federal agencies under the jurisdiction of his powerful Senate committee, including more than a dozen involving the businesses of contributors to his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

Mr. McCain said he was acting to defuse criticism of his interventions before the Federal Communications Commission on behalf of companies regulated by that agency, one of many supervised by the Commerce Committee, which he has headed since 1997.

In sheer volume, the release of more than two years of committee correspondence was both a remarkable display of openness and an effort to show that there was nothing unusual in what Mr. McCain has done by writing to agencies that regulate the companies whose employees have supported his campaign.

”If people view them in their entirety, they will see that I have acted on one fundamental principle, to protect the consumer,” the senator said today while on a campaign swing through South Carolina. ”The overwhelming majority of these communications are: ‘Please act, please act.’ ”

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The letters to the Federal Communications Commission show that in several instances, Mr. McCain sought help for companies in telecommunications and related fields that have also given to his presidential campaign.

But officials from both the McCain campaign and the Senate committee stressed today that the letters were sometimes sent without prompting from lobbyists and contributors, and that they reflected Mr. McCain’s longtime policy positions. Some were also written jointly with other members of the Commerce panel, including Democrats.

After which the Times backed WAY off and the story died as it should of, as a non-story dug up to bring down a potential nominee for the Presidency. Somehow TNR, who we all know does a real thorough job at fact checking stories, missed the fact that Mr. Labaton had been deep into this scandal eight years ago and now it magically appears once again.

Byron York also has some added information:

I just got off the phone with John Weaver, the former top McCain campaign official who is now an informal adviser to the campaign. I asked him about his 1999 meeting on the campaign’s behalf with lobbyist Vicki Iseman. He said he “had no reason to think” that McCain might have been having an affair with Iseman, but he was concerned about word he had heard suggesting that Iseman was telling associates she had connections with McCain. “This was a woman who was saying that she had special influence with John’s committee staff and with him,” Weaver told me. “I didn’t believe that was the case.”

“When you hear back from several people that this person is saying they can get anything done, then that is alarming,” Weaver continued. So Weaver met with Iseman, at a Union Station restaurant, and told her to back off. He told me he didn’t exactly say, “Get lost,” but that that was the gist of it. “The discussion lasted all of five or six minutes in which I told her to cut that stuff out,” Weaver told me. “I said, ‘You need to stop this.'” Iseman’s response, according to Weaver: “She was not happy.”

It is not all that unusual for lobbyists to spread the word that they have good access with lawmakers; it’s the currency of the realm in that business. “If a newspaper is going to run stories about lobbyists who claim they have special relationships with members of Congress, it will run out of ink,” Weaver said.

Its such a thin story, so full of innuendo that I really have to wonder at the timing of this thing. Remember, prior to this story the big news was the Obama plagiarism thing and now its off the radars. Would they run this sorry piece of reporting to get it off the water cooler conversation or are they really this hard up to attack McCain anyway, anyhow?

Now, while on the subject of lobbyists lets look at how squeaky clean Obama is in the lobbyist arena?

A Globe review of Obama’s campaign finance records shows that he collected hundreds of thousands of dollars from lobbyists and PACs as a state legislator in Illinois, a US senator, and a presidential aspirant.

Sister Toldjah notes that the Obama campaigns excuse is that after his measly two years in the Senate he decided to change how things are run in Washington and do away with all those lowly lobbyists…..but:

Obama’s “disdain” for lobbyists hasn’t stopped him from having – you guessed it – state lobbyists play prominent roles in his campaign. For example, former SC governor Jim Hodges is Obama’s national co-chair. Jim Hodges is also the founder of Hodges Consulting Group, a state-based lobbying firm, and is a registered federal lobbyist. Some other state lobbyists playing the role in the BO campaign (via the MSNBC piece) include:

Obama’s co-chair in New Hampshire, Jim Demers, is a state based lobbyist for the pharmaceutical and financial services industries amongst others. Michael Bauer, a member of Obama’s LGBT steering committee, is a state based lobbyist in Chicago. And in Nevada, Obama’s campaign also has three state based lobbyists who play[ed] senior advising roles in August last year.

Again, the response from the BO campaign was laughable:

When asked by reporters on the call why Hodges could work with the campaign even though he is a lobbyist, campaign manager, David Plouffe, said the campaign’s policy for limiting lobbyists’ influence applied to taking money only from federal registered lobbyists and PACs.

Got that? So Obama can decry lobbyists all day long, but when he does, remember he’s supposedly only talking about “federal lobbyists” – not state lobbyists. Barack Obama, by the way, denied in a debate last month that Jim Demers was a pharma lobbyist, in spite of the fact that it was the truth.

How does the O-man justify taking money from state lobbyists?

“Because I have no power in this state, so I’m not influenced in any way by somebody who’s lobbying at the state level,” he told NBC’s Sacramento affiliate in August. “The main thing that we’re trying to avoid is any perception that somehow those who are doing business in Washington have an influence on my agenda.”

And we know state and national interests never intersect, right? This is how BO gets to present himself as “above it all” – by defining what he’s talking about when he says “lobbyist.”

Great work by Sister on that post, you should read it all. It proves the man is not going to come out of this lobbyist debate clean if he decides to go after McCain on the topic.

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