Energy Policy? Check. Foreign Policy? Check.

The USA Today has the news that, like McCain’s energy policy, McCain’s foreign policy was crafted by a lobbyist actively lobbying on those same issues (h/t freepatriot).

John McCain’s top foreign policy adviser lobbied the Arizona senator’s staff on behalf of the republic of Georgia while he was working for the campaign, public records show.

Randy Scheunemann, founder of Orion Strategies, represented the governments of Macedonia, Georgia and Taiwan between 2003 and March 1, according to the firm’s filings with the Justice Department. In its latest semiannual report, the firm disclosed that Scheunemann had a phone conversation in November about Georgia with Richard Fontaine, an aide in McCain’s Senate office.

Orion Strategies earned $540,000 from its foreign clients over the year ending on Dec. 1, reports show. Scheunemann also received $56,250 last year from March to July from McCain, according to campaign finance records.

But wait, it gets better. That lobbying call Scheunemann had about Georgia with McCain’s aide? He had it at a time when Scheunemann was working for free for McCain. Apparently, when he was broke last year (and, appropriately, flying around on the Sugar Momma Express), McCain was compensating his campaign staffers in access.

Given all the discussion of retroactive immunity for FISA, you guys are especially going to love this bit:

Campaign spokesman Jill Hazelbaker said the ethics policy is not retroactive.

That’s what you’d expect out of a campaign managed by a lobbyist who, until March, was lobbying Senators (including McCain?) to pressure them to give telecoms retroactive immunity. But Hazelbaker’s insistence that there is no retroactive ethical fix reinforces my point from yesterday: once your campaign policies have been developed by a bus full of lobbyists, there’s no way to cleanse those policies of ethical taint.

Really, McCain ought to give up this lobbyist disclosure whitewash. We’d all get through detailed discovery of the degree to which lobbyists own McCain’s campaign faster if he would just tell us which of his policies weren’t developed by active lobbyists.

Problem is, I can’t think of a likely policy area where McCain’s campaign isn’t dripping with lobbyists. You think maybe his blog outreach program is free of lobbyist taint?

Why Is McCain’s Former Campaign Chair Stumping for Obama?

Yesterday brought the news that Mark McKinnon–one of McCain’s key campaign advisors–fulfilled his promise to step down rather than work against Barack Obama.

Mark McKinnon said last year that he would leave McCain’s campaign after the primary season if the Arizona senator were to run against Obama.


In a 2007 interview with Cox News, McKinnon said he would vote for McCain, but "I just don’t want to work against an Obama candidacy." He added that if Obama were to reach the White House, it "would send a great message to the country and the world."

Part of McKinnon’s unease with running against Obama, incidentally, is that he didn’t want to run negative against Obama. So I guess we can look forward to lots more smear campaigning from the Republican side, now that McKinnon has stepped down.

More interesting than McKinnon, though, is reality-based Republican Chuck Hagel’s apparent support for Obama.

The Republican Senator from Nebraska was a political thorn in McCain’s side on Tuesday night, repeatedly lavishing praise on the presumptive Democratic candidate and levying major foreign policy criticisms at the GOP nominee and the Republican Party as a whole. At one point, Hagel even urged the Arizona Republican to elevate his campaign discourse to a higher, more honest level.


Much of Hagel’s address, hosted by the Ploughshares Fund, was spent weaving between Obama praise and McCain quips. He urged the media, for example, to focus on important policy issues an "not just why Barack [doesn’t] wear flag pins on his lapel."

Asked whether he would be open to serving as Secretary of Defense in a hypothetical Obama administration, Hagel demurred. But in the process, he praised the Illinois Democrat for being open to a bipartisan cabinet.

You see, Chuck Hagel is not just any reality-based Republican. Chuck Hagel was the Co-Chair of McCain’s 2000 Presidential campaign.

Now, there are several conclusions one might draw from Hagel’s apparent endorsement of Obama over his former candidate. Perhaps Hagel is fickle or a flip-flopper. Perhaps Barack Obama is so charismatic, he has been able to woo Hagel over just a few years in the Senate, in spite of Hagel and McCain’s lifelong friendship and shared background as Vietnam Vets. 

Or perhaps McCain is not the man he was in 2000. 

You Can’t Clean the Stench Out of the Straight Talk for Lobbyists Express

The WaPo placed the news that Tom Loeffler, McCain’s Fundraising Chair, has left the campaign because he was unwilling to give up his lobbying gig, on A1.

Tom Loeffler, the national finance co-chairman for Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign, resigned yesterday because of his lobbying ties, a campaign adviser said.

With five high-level resignations in the last week or so and the prominence of coverage about those departures, you might think McCain is really cleaning house.

But here’s the thing. Even with just the resignations of the last ten days, McCain has shown a real inconsistency about what kind of lobbying ties compromise his campaign. With Loeffler and Eric Burgeson, there seem to have been two problems. First, both were active lobbyists, who lobbied the Senate for clients whose issues fell squarely in the purview of the Commerce, Armed Services, and Indian Affairs Committees on which McCain serves. In addition, both represented foreign "countries," Loeffler Saudi Arabia and Burgeson the Kurds.


Of course, that’s true of Charlie Black, as well. For example, Black lobbied the Senate on FISA, and has had an affinity for representing evil dictators throughout his career. So why is okay for Charlie Black to stick around while Loeffler and Burgeson take their blackberries and go home?

John McCain has a ready explanation: Charlie Black (and Rick Davis, someone else McCain couldn’t afford to lose) aren’t really lobbyists anymore:

Charlie Black and Rick Davis are not in the lobbying business; they’ve been out of that business,

Today’s WaPo story provides a little more detail about what that really means.

Until recently, his top political adviser, Charles R. Black Jr., was the head of a Washington lobbying firm. Black retired in March from BKSH & Associates, the firm he helped found, to stay with the campaign. Davis ran a lobbying firm for several years but has said he is on leave from it.

Indeed, Black does seem to have stepped down from his lobbying work sometime before the quarterly disclosure forms were submitted starting on April 18. So by "out of the business," McCain must mean "out of the business for a whopping month and a half." But there are two problems still.

First, how do you wipe clean all the lobbying Charlie Black did from the Straight Talk for Lobbyists Express? Black was, by his own admission, lobbying from McCain’s campaign bus.

Black said he does a lot of his work by telephone from McCain’s Straight Talk Express bus.

Read more

John McCain’s “Green” Credentials Were Developed by an ACTIVE Energy Lobbyist

Of the dozens of lobbyists that work on John McCain’s campaign, one already got nabbed in McCain’s recent "conflict of interest vetting for everyone but my wife" initiative: Eric Burgeson (though the NYT also reports that Tom Loeffler, Fundraising Chair, "was expected to give up his position to comply with the new rules "–presumably that’ll happen once Loeffler has finalized the next round of $30,000 a person fundraising dinners).

One lobbyist out of dozens. Why was Eric Burgeson, an advisor on energy and environmental issues, so much more of a problem for McCain than all the other lobbyists working on his campaign?

Burgeson’s recent job history looks like a wildly revolving door taking him from the White House, to the Department of Energy, and then into lobbying (I’m still trying to figure out whether Burgeson played a part in Dick’s Energy Task Force):

October 2006 to present: Barbour Griffith & Rogers, Vice President, Energy and Environment

April 2005 to October 2006: Chief of Staff, Department of Energy

November 2004 to April 2005: Special Assistant to the President and Associate Director of the Office or Presidential Personnel, White House

May 2004 to November 2004: Deputy Chief of Staff and White House Liaison, DOE

January 2001 to May 2004: Associate Director in the Office of Cabinet Affairs in the White House, Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary of Energy and Senior Legislative Advisor in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

1999 to 2001: Lobbyist for Mercury group, representing (among others) BP Amoco, Lockheed Martin, and the NRA

His 2008 first quarter lobbying for BGR offers more insight into the conflicts Burgeson represented for McCain:

Breakthough Fuel, energy and environment, new client (no quarterly reports)

Coal 2 Liquid, liquid coal, includes Senate lobbying

Contractors International Group on Nuclear Liability, IAEA Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, includes Senate lobbying

Deloitte Consulting, procurement of technology and systems management, includes Senate lobbying

Energy Enterprise Solutions, IT Management, includes Senate lobbying (more background)

Flambeau River Biorefinery, energy and budget, includes Senate lobbying (more background)

Forest County Potawatami Community, tribal affairs, includes Senate lobbying (more background)

Kurdistan Regional Government, foreign relations, includes Senate lobbying (and Presidential and NSC lobbying)

MLBA Services, insurance reform, includes Senate lobbying

MPI Corporate Holdings, business development, US Mint

Materials Processing Corporation, electronics recycling, includes Senate lobbying (more background)

O2 Diesel Company, renewable energy, includes Senate lobbying (more background)

Qioptiq, defense issues, includes Senate lobbying (more background)

Read more

One Very Special Disclosure Survey

After losing a slew of dictator-connected advisors in the last week, the McCain campaign has finally decided it might be a good idea to vet the people hanging out with John McCain.

McCain campaign manager Rick Davis moved to avoid a recurrence of the situation with his conflict-of-interest policy, released late yesterday. It also sought to stem the impression that McCain’s campaign is run by lobbyists — a characterization Democrats have tried to make since it was reported that a senior adviser, Charlie Black, made lobbying calls from McCain’s signature bus, the Straight Talk Express. Davis himself is currently on leave from his lobbying and consulting firm, and the campaign removed two other officials this week for work they’d done on behalf of Burmese junta.


The memo establishes a new vetting process, requiring campaign aides to fill out a questionnaire on their status and to provide proof to the campaign legal department that they’ve terminated outside contracts.

In an show of civic responsibility, Progressive Media USA has filled out the forms for five of McCain’s top advisors. Here, for example, is part of Charlie Black’s now-completed survey:

McCain Staff Lobbyist Survey

NAME: Charlie Black

CAMPAIGN ROLE: Senior Political Adviser

Have you ever registered as a federal lobbyist?

Have you ever been a registered foreign agent?

Please list all of the foreign governments, political and other interests you lobbied for:
Read more

It’s Not Just McCain’s Advisors with Financial Ties to Evil Dictators; It’s His Wife

The other day, Cliff did a post listing all the ties to bloody dictators McCain’s advisors have. They include ties to dictators in Myanmar, Zaire, Nigeria, Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, and–through Sun Myung Moon, North Korea.

Well, apparently, it’s not just his advisors McCain has to worry about. It’s also his wife:

Cindy McCain, whose husband has been a critic of the violence in Sudan, sold off more than $2 million in mutual funds whose holdings include companies that do business in the African nation.

The sale on Wednesday came after The Associated Press questioned the investments in light of calls by John McCain, the likely Republican presidential nominee, for international financial sanctions against the Sudanese leadership.


According to McCain’s personal financial disclosure, Cindy McCain’s investments include two mutual funds — American Funds Europacific Growth fund and American Funds Capital World Growth and Income fund — that are listed by the Sudan Divestment Task Force as targets for divestment.

"Those have been sold as of today," said McCain spokesman Brian Rogers.

Both funds have holdings in Oil & Natural Gas Corp., an India-based company that does business in Sudan. The American Funds Capital World Growth & Income Fund also has holdings in Petrochina, a Chinese government-owned oil company with vast investments in Sudan.

Last year, in a speech on energy policy to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, McCain cited China’s investments in Sudan as an example of regimes that survive off free-flowing petro dollars.


On Wednesday, Rogers said: "Senator and Mrs. McCain remain committed to doing everything possible to end the genocide in Darfur."

Rogers also said, "Now that you’ve busted the McCains failing to meet the standards Senator McCain claims to uphold on the campaign trail, we’ve decided Cindy should release her tax returns, just so you can be sure there are no other surprises like this–or her onetime $400,000 investment with Charles Keating that almost ruined Senator McCain’s career."

Oh wait, he didn’t say that last bit. Silly me! The McCain campaign obviously doesn’t need help vetting its staff and Cindy’s bank accounts!

Update: small edits thanks to watercarrier4diogenes. 

Does McCain Support the Poisoning of MI’s Voters?

A number of people (including Senator Whitehouse) have pointed out how much the Mary Gade firing resembles the US Attorney firing. As the Chicago Tribune reported (before the Administration released the standard "spending time with her family" statement), Gade was told to resign because she expected Dow Chemical to clean up its pollution in the Saginaw-Midland MI area.

On Thursday, following months of internal bickering over Mary Gade’s interactions with Dow, the administration forced her to quit as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Midwest office, based in Chicago.

Gade told the Tribune she resigned after two aides to national EPA administrator Stephen Johnson took away her powers as regional administrator and told her to quit or be fired by June 1.


Gade, appointed by President Bush as regional EPA administrator in September 2006, invoked emergency powers last summer to order the company to remove three hotspots of dioxin near its Midland headquarters.

She demanded more dredging in November, when it was revealed that dioxin levels along a park in Saginaw were 1.6 million parts per trillion, the highest amount ever found in the U.S.

Dow then sought to cut a deal on a more comprehensive cleanup. But Gade ended the negotiations in January, saying Dow was refusing to take action necessary to protect public health and wildlife. Dow responded by appealing to officials in Washington, according to heavily redacted letters the Tribune obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.


On Thursday, Gade said of her resignation: "There’s no question this is about Dow. I stand behind what I did and what my staff did. I’m proud of what we did."

What I haven’t heard mentioned in any of this coverage, though, is whether John McCain supports the firing of Mary Gade.

It’s relevant, I figure, for two reasons. First, with his half-measures global warming initiative, McCain likes to fancy himself a bit of an environmentalist. More importantly, McCain is banking heavily on winning MI in November. There is no way that McCain becomes President without winning MI.

So don’t you think it a relevant question–whether McCain supports the firing of Mary Gade because she tried to end the poisoning of a bunch of MI voters on whose votes McCain is counting?

Read more

Wherein emptywheel Gets Shrill


Boy, what a weird news day. Which press conference do you think will get all the coverage on the news? Obama on Wright, or Mr. Irrelevant on the economy?

I’m just about to go fetch mr. emptywheel and set off on my Haggis and Beamish pilgrimage. So I thought I’d leave you with a link to my appearance on MI’s Off the Record last week. Tim Skubick said the calls in response have been mixed–some people find this show wonderfully, um, lively. (And on that note, there’s some debate about how many times I said "pissed." Three? Six? Pissed … it’s the new bitter.) Others found it altogether too lively for PBS.

Please behave nicely for bmaz while I’m on my pilgrimage.

John “Century” McCain Reduces the RNC to Babbling

Now, I’m sure the RNC has better reasons to call a press conference and claim this ad is "false and defamatory" than any real belief their hysterics will keep the ad off the air. They’re almost certainly trying to blur this ad with the GOP’s own controversial ads: there’s the DCCC’s two FEC complaints–backed up by documentary evidence–that the NRCC and Freedom’s Watch are coordinating ads, and the race-baiting ad that the strangely impotent John McCain could not prevent the NC GOP from airing. In other words, the GOP is likely trying to water-down any focus on their own (in the NRCC-Freedom’s Watch case) illegal ads. Perhaps, too, they’re testing the mettle of the cable networks, to see if similar complaints will work as we get closer to the election.

But they can’t really be ignorant enough to believe that such an attack won’t attract more attention to the ad–and to McCain’s vision of a century in Iraq?

What I most like about their attack, though, is the way their argument has reduced their babbling lawyer to utter unintelligibility.

This is a complaint about the facts that are being misrepresented in the ad, and this being a deliberate falsehood, that we are saying, stations have an obligation to protect the public from airing a deliberate falsehood.

First, as the GOP must recognize well from having pioneered this kind of ad, there really aren’t facts that are being misrepresented. Consider the content:

  • A questioner asks McCain: President Bush has talked about staying in Iraq for 50 years.

Now to be fair, Tony Snow tried mightily to deny the one thing everyone understood as soon as Bush started saying Iraq would be "like" Korea. That we’d be there for a "like" amount of time, 50 years. But to make the assertion that Bush wants troops in Iraq for 50 years and McCain wants them there for a century, this ad relies solely on this video showing McCain responding to a question about Bush’s 50 year statements in Derry NH. The question and answer happened–it is not an assertion, it is just a video clip.

  • McCain suggests–speaking of a long-term deployment and mentioning Korea specifically–"maybe a hundred."
  • 5 years, $500 billion, over 4000 dead.

Gosh–we could have been hardnosed! We didn’t even mention the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi dead.

  • If all he offers is more of the same, is John McCain the right choice, is John McCain the right choice for America’s future.

In point of fact, since both McCain and Bush are referring to a Korea-model for our engagement in Iraq, his proposed policy is more of the same.

And that schmoozy hug at the end? Not a photoshop.

So, back to the RNC lawyer’s babbling: first, no "facts misrepresented in the ad." There’s really no central logical assertion at all, in fact. Read more

The Sugar Momma Express

So, apparently, in addition to riding around on the Straight Talk for Lobbyists Express, John McCain has also been flying around the Sugar Momma Express.

Given Senator John McCain’s signature stance on campaign finance reform, it was not surprising that he backed legislation last year requiring presidential candidates to pay the actual cost of flying on corporate jets. The law, which requires campaigns to pay charter rates when using such jets rather than cheaper first-class fares, was intended to reduce the influence of lobbyists and create a level financial playing field.

But over a seven-month period beginning last summer, Mr. McCain’s cash-short campaign gave itself an advantage by using a corporate jet owned by a company headed by his wife, Cindy McCain, according to public records. For five of those months, the plane was used almost exclusively for campaign-related purposes, those records show.

Mr. McCain’s campaign paid a total of $241,149 for the use of that plane from last August through February, records show. That amount is approximately the cost of chartering a similar jet for a month or two, according to industry estimates.

Nice. John McCain is flying around in his Sugar Momma Express to make speeches to struggling working Americans in which he tells them the economic woes of this country are all psychological–all in their head. In fact, when he likened carrying his own suitcase to the economic struggles of Youngstown, Ohio, what he really meant was that he had to carry his own suitcase … from his Sugar Momma Express.

In any case, this further solidifies the importance of allowing us to see Cindy McCain’s tax returns. These subsidized plane flights were actually provided by Hensley & Company.

It is owned by Hensley & Company, through a holding company, King Aviation. Mrs. McCain is the chairwoman of Hensley, which is one of the country’s biggest distributors of Anheuser-Busch products. Hensley was founded by Mrs. McCain’s father, James Hensley, and her uncle.

It was her late father’s fortune, which also includes real estate, that helped start Mr. McCain’s political career. King Aviation is listed on Mr. McCain’s Senate disclosure forms as one of his wife’s assets.

If Hensley & Company subsidized those flights as a corporation, then McCain owes a whole bundle more in reimbursement. If Hensely & Company subsidized those flights because Cindy is John’s Sugar Momma, then that means you cannot separate her finances from his.