Vicki Iseman’s Lobbying Career

I don’t mean to pick on Vicki Iseman. I just got rather fascinated by the career of this woman who–at least in 1999, when John McCain was running for President–openly boasted of her ties to McCain, the Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee (in fact, this story started from a "second-hand report from a lobbyist"). Some of her clients seem to back up that boast. Given the prevalence of media, and more recently, defense/VA contractors, in her portfolio, I imagine such boasts helped her career.

What follows relies primarily on the data available in the Senate Lobbyist Database–which only goes back to 1999. I can’t tell you what happened in the (presumably) 9 years between the time she walked into her boss’ office (I’m guessing this is Hector Alcalde) asking for a chance…

[I] walked into my boss’s office [the president of the company] and said, ‘You don’t really know me, but I answer the phones. I’m a college graduate and I’d like you to consider me for a secretarial or an administrative position.’" He agreed to try her out for three months. Within a year she became his special assistant.

… And when, in 1999, she was a partner piling up relationships with media companies.

It appears that her big breaks happened in 1998, when clients like Paxson and Sinclair first started working with her. Though it wasn’t until later 1999 that she became the lead on the Paxson account (the first lobbying report for Paxson in 1999 still lists Alcalde as the lead).

By 1999, she was the lead on accounts with a number of media companies–Paxson, Sinclair, and CanWest, which I’ve posted about, as well as AMFM Inc and Capstar (which would get absorbed into Clear Channel with her help) and Telemundo (which would get bought by NBC with her help) and Hispanic Broadcasting (which then had ties to Clear Channel, and which would get absorbed into Univision in 2003 with her help). So in 1999, when Vicki Iseman was trading on McCain’s name as he ran for President, seven of her eight major clients involved consolidating media conservative media properties.

The exception is Computer Sciences Corp–which I’m going to have to come back to, for a variety of reasons (but if you want to kibitz in the comments, please do).

In the time frame of McCain’s first presidential run, she also seemed to help out on her colleagues’ accounts–for the most part, they’re the kind of earmark accounts that the firm focuses on. So she helped out lobbying for Marin County, Tulare County, Palm Springs. She also lobbied on larger accounts, like Carnival Cruise lines and Astra-Zeneca, both of which would have had interests before the Commerce Committee.

Her client base did not significantly expand beyond that, in recent years. The actual fees paid by the media companies increased as their issues acquired new urgency–as when her lobbying tied into a McCain attempt to help save Paxson and another Iseman client, Jovan Broadcasting (her only liberal media outlet client), from losing their frequencies.

After a brief period of Democratic dominance, McCain returned to become chairman of the committee in 2003 and 2004. During that period, he took crucial legislative action that saved Paxson Communications from a bill that would have, in the words of CEO Lowell “Bud” Paxson, financially ruined his company.

Even more ironically, McCain took this action for Paxson in spite of his long-standing position that television broadcasters had inappropriately used the transition to digital television (DTV) to benefit themselves financially at the expense of the American public.

Or when Univision successfully acquired Hispanic Broadcasting in 2003 (I have a hunch we’ll hear more about this)–creating overwhelming concentration in the Hispanic broadcast market and, when matched with the NBC acquisition of Telemundo, giving conservative corporations utter domination of Hispanic broadcasting. From a January-February 2004 NACLA report (behind a firewall):

In the fall of 2003, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the U.S. government’s media regulation arm, approved Univision’s merger with Hispanic Broadcasting Corp., the nation’s largest owner of Spanish-language radio stations. For the entire summer, the FCC had been at the center of a storm of public criticism over its historic decision in june to loosen U.S. media ownership regulations. The changes, which are still being fought over in the U.S. Congress and the courts, favor large corporations and the concentration of media ownership through consolidation.

For critics, even some within the FCC, the approval of the Univision merger appeared to be more of the same. Jonathan S. Adelstein, a Democrat who is on the five-member FCC, said he believes the Univision merger was approved too hurriedly by a commission that seems unconcerned with preserving a variety of viewpoints and information sources in Spanish-language media. "I’m not saying I would have necessarily opposed that [merger], but we should have looked at how to preserve diversity."

What is certain is that the deal catapulted Univision into the category of a bona-fide media giant. The company now owns 62 television stations, which broadcast either Univision or its sibling, the Telefutura network; these channels reach nearly all the Latino households in the country. There’s also Galavision, the Spanish-language cable channel, which reaches 5.7 million Latino cable subscribers. With the merger, Univision can also now boast of 65 radio stations that it either owns or programs.

This was a very strategic acquisition because Univision also controls three record labels that it says capture 35% of the U.S. Latino music market. The company can now use its radio stations to promote its stable of music talent. Additionally, Univision owns the top Web site for U.S. Latinos,, which gets over 1 billion hits a year. With all these properties in its portfolio, Univision raked in a reported $100 million in net income during the first nine months of 2003. [paragraph breaks added for legibility]

Iseman also appears to have supported Total Life Networks’ (which has ties to Paxson) attempts to combat a la carte cable pricing.

While cable television customers may applaud the notion of paying for only those channels they want, religious broadcasters say it will diminish their reach.

Pay-per-channel pricing "would have a devastating effect on the inspirational programming we currently provide" and "decimate both the audience and financial support for religious broadcasting," according to the Faith and Family Broadcasting Coalition.

The group includes Pat Robertson, founder of the Virginia Beach-based Christian Broadcasting Network, and Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder of Liberty University in Lynchburg and the defunct Moral Majority.

Last month, the Federal Communications Commission said customers could save as much as 13 percent on their cable bills with per-channel pricing because they no longer would have to buy packages that may include dozens of channels they do not want.

But many evangelical broadcasters, as well as much of the cable industry, dispute the savings and oppose per-channel pricing, or a la carte cable.

A large segment of religious networks’ audience comes from viewers who discover religious programs while flipping through the channel lineup in their cable package, said Jerry Rose, president of the evangelical Total Living Network.

Rose predicted that viewers would buy only prominent channels, such as CNN or ESPN, and the specialty channels in which they have personal interest. Many viewers, "especially people who’d be considered nonreligious, they’re just not going to click off on that Christian channel and pay for it," he said.

I’ll be interested to see if McCain helped Iseman out here, since he’s a noted supporter of a la carte pricing. Then again, he’s a noted opponent of media concentration, too, but that didn’t prevent him from helping Iseman’s client, Sinclair, from evading laws on media ownership.

Starting in 2006, Iseman started doing more of the kind of work her firm normally did–acquiring earmarks for localities. In her case, she collected pork for her high school and college, as well as a curious non-profit, Operation Warm.

A few years ago, Mrs. Smith said, Ms. Iseman contacted the district administrators, "saying she would like to help the district and discuss the possibility of helping Homer-Center obtain some of the federal dollars out there."

And she did acquire work with Sage Communications–working, as she is with some of her long-time clients–on issues relating to the move to digital broadcasting.

Which leaves just three more big clients. CSC, like I mentioned, has been a client since at least 1999.

In addition, from 2004 to the present, she lobbied for Bearing Point. formerly KPMG. Bearing Point’s profile is closer to CSC’s, and recently she’s been lobbying on things like spectrum policy. But she seems to have gotten into the work when Bearing Point’s VA financial-logistics contract started to go south.

And then there’s her latest new client, CACI, who were some of the interrogators who got in trouble at Abu Ghraib. Iseman’s contract post-dates that trouble and purportedly relates to Veterans Affairs. Perhaps this relates to CACI’s efforts to hire disabled veterans for contract positions.

What is interesting, though, is with her Bearing Point, CACI, and CSC contracts, Iseman has shifted focus, from an almost exclusive focus on media consolidation, to one more focused on defense and VA contracting. Of course, former Commerce Chair John McCain moved to the Ranking Member on Armed Services Committee in 2006. But it may be that Iseman has developed contacts on Veterans Affairs totally unrelated to McCain. Let’s hope it doesn’t mean she’s chummy with one of the Democrats on VA affairs, Barack Obama. Because she doesn’t seem to help a man’s presidential bid.

Updated: Fixed some syntax and added context to a la carte cable debate.

24 replies
  1. MadDog says:

    I’ve worked with CSC (isn’t it amazing all the folks I’ve worked with? *g*).

    CSC is, as you say, another one of the heavyweight government contractors with a good deal of business in the defense/intelligence sectors whose very existence is utterly dependent upon the largesse bestowed upon it the US Government via its DC lobbyists.

  2. MadDog says:

    From a CSC’s FY 2003 10-K Report:

    Revenues from the U.S. Federal sector increased 17% during fiscal 2003 versus fiscal 2002…

    .. The remaining revenue growth of 11%, or $308.1 million, is principally attributable to new and increased work related to intelligence community activities

    And this from CSC’s FY 2004 10-K Report:

    As 1 of 7 companies selected for the Department of Defense Intelligence Information Systems Integration and Engineering Support Services Contract 3 (DIESCON 3), CSC will provide technology, engineering, defense intelligence and other services to the Defense Intelligence Agency and many other members of the intelligence community. The Company estimates its portion of the award will exceed $120 million over the 3 year period.

    DynCorp accounted for approximately 82.6% points of the fiscal 2004 84.9% revenue growth in the U.S. Federal sector. Excluding DynCorp, revenues from other Federal sector operations increased slightly during fiscal 2004, primarily from Department of Defense contracts, most notably missile defense, a U.S. Navy multiple awards contract, and several intelligence contracts…

    …Revenues from the U.S. Federal sector increased 16.5% during fiscal 2003 versus fiscal 2002. The contribution of former DynCorp operations from the date of acquisition, March 7, 2003 to March 28, 2003 accounted for $166.0 million or approximately 5.8% of U.S. Federal sector’s revenue growth. The remaining revenue growth of 10.7%, or $308.1 million, is principally attributable to new and increased work related to intelligence community activities

    And this from CSC’s FY 2005 10-K Report:

    Department of Defense revenue was down $89 million or 3.0% for fiscal 2005…

    …Partially offsetting these reductions were new contracts for equipment procurement and installation for the U.S. Army and I/T engineering and management efforts for the intelligence services

    And this from CSC’s FY 2006 10-K Report:

    Department of Defense revenue increased $459 million or 15.8% to $3,369 million for fiscal 2006. Growth was the result of increased demand for…

    …I/T engineering and management services for certain intelligence services. These new programs and tasking provided approximately $297 million in revenue growth for fiscal 2006.

    • MadDog says:

      DynCorp accounted for approximately 82.6% points of the fiscal 2004 84.9% revenue growth in the U.S. Federal sector. Excluding DynCorp, revenues from other Federal sector operations increased slightly during fiscal 2004, primarily from Department of Defense contracts, most notably missile defense, a U.S. Navy multiple awards contract, and several intelligence contracts…

      From DynCorp’s website:

      …In recent years, DynCorp International has broadened its reach in program management and security. To date, we have recruited, trained, and deployed more than 5,000 highly-qualified civilian peacekeepers and police trainers to 11 countries, including Haiti, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq, for the Department of State

      Blackwater Redux!

  3. FrankProbst says:

    I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that she became a big-time sleazy lobbyist through guts and hard work. But I think someone should at least ASK for the details of how she went from answering the phones to becoming partner. I’m also willing to believe that she was exaggerating the closeness of her relationship with McCain, since it was clearly in her best interests to do so. But again, I’d like to know exactly what she was claiming her relationship was, since it seems that it was bad enough to freak out McCain’s inner circle.

    Here’s a fun hypothetical situation: If she was claiming that she was McCain’s mistress in order to drum up lobbying contracts, can she be sued for fraud if she was really NOT having an affair with him?

    • bigbrother says:

      Frank… Vicki Iseman could not afford not to produce on her bragging. If she were lying she would have gone down in flames long ago. She is probaly scene on the K street lobby party circuit and other lobby get togethers.
      The military establishment goes back a lonf way withthe McCain and Bush family types.

      I think the 7000 some earkmarks during the Rethug congress from 2000-06 would be connected to some retiring rethug congress critters thay may want a stay out of jail free card. Can those earmarkd be traced to the committees with oversught? We could drop that in Conyers lap and warn the Blue dogs to back off. My power has been out since arounf 3PN PST. Back at 12:35 AM

  4. ProfessorFoland says:

    BearingPoint…there are days it seems like there’s just one big hairball of rolled-up corruption, and the same names keep coming up.

    BearingPoint has been trying to become the Halliburton of State Department contracts, esp. for Iraq Reconstruction. Patricia Kushlis at whirledview has been beating this drum for some time:

    BearingPoint, unsurprisingly therefore, turns up on the Center for Corporate Policy’s list of one of ten major corporations in 2004 to profit the most from the Iraq war as well as one of the top 100 federal contractors overall.

    Jane reports that they gave more to Bush than any other contractor.

    (I have a vague recollection that there’s an EW post on BearingPoint but I couldn’t find it.)

    • emptywheel says:

      I don’t think I’ve posted on them. At least thus far, though, her work for Bearing Point is pretty limited–primarily to the info system that has gone south.

  5. mkls says:

    What a great analysis.

    No matter what denials people issue or what they say, history doesn’t lie. But you have to spend a lot of time poring over statistics and databases to see the damning pattern.

    Thanks for advancing our understanding on this one!

  6. emptywheel says:

    Mad Dog

    Here’s some more detail on what she was pushing for CSC:

    1999: $80,000
    IT Privatization, JCALS, IRS Restructuring

    2000: $80,000
    IT Privatization, JCALS, IRS Restructuring

    2001: $100,000
    IT Privatization, JCALS, IRS Restructuring, LOGMD, AWPS

    2002: $120,000
    IT Privatization, JCALS, IRS Restructuring, LOGMD, AWPS, Homeland Security

    2003: $120,000
    IT Privatization, JCALS, IRS Restructuring, LOGMD, AWPS, Homeland Security, DIMHRS, USVISIT, AFSS

    2004: $120,000
    IT Privatization, IRS Restructuring, LOGMD, AWPS, Homeland Security, USVISIT, AFSS, TFMM

    2005: $180,000
    IT Privatization, IRS Restructuring, LOGMD, AWPS, Homeland Security, USVISIT, AFSS, TFMM, NASA

    2006: $240,000
    IT Privatization, IRS Restructuring, LOGMD, AWPS, Homeland Security, USVISIT, AFSS, TFMM, NASA, NOAA

    2007: $140,000 in six months (no year-end)
    IT Privatization, IRS Restructuring, LOGMD, AWPS, Homeland Security, USVISIT, AFSS, TFMM, NASA, NOAA

  7. JohnLopresti says:

    Here’s a five year old study of the top information tech companies which included csc. From another specialized and limited perspective, here is a paragraph on the korporate kultcha of csc inscribed this year by a former worker. All I knew of the company was a long time ago as the most reliable harddrive manufacturer for personal computers, though pricey units retailing at quintuple the price of a Taipei imported drive, in the era before modern miniaturization of disk media. So there is a consumer electronics aspect of csc, though in the industrial park their office lounges beside kbr and ManTech and one needs formal documents issued even to drive thru that tech row.

    • behindthefall says:

      CSC, one of eight subcontractors, will assist the team with information systems engineering support services provided by CSC’s Systems Engineering Division, with headquarters in Falls Church, Va. All work will be performed at Fort Huachuca in Arizona.

      CSC’s current activities at Fort Huachuca include software development and technical support for the Fort Huachuca Software Development Center and also test and evaluation services of electronic products for the U.S. Army Electronic Proving Ground.

      What’s that they say about a place you’ve never heard of suddenly cropping up half a dozen times in a row?

  8. manny says:

    I heard Sinclair offered the “presidency” of Glencairn to another African-American employee(a production person named Dwight) who turned it down.

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