Last updated: February 29, 2008 - 5:42pm
MCCAIN AND THE TELECOM LOBBYIST
McCain Denies Lobbyist Relationship Story
What's at Issue
Who Is Vicki Iseman?
Is this Good Journalism?
McCain camp vows to 'go to war' with NYT
McCain could gain from report on lobbyist link
McCAIN DENIES LOBBYIST RELATIONSHIP STORY
[SOURCE: Associated Press, AUTHOR: Libby Quaid]
John McCain emphatically denied a romantic relationship with a female telecommunications lobbyist on Thursday and said a report by The New York Times suggesting favoritism for her clients is "not true." "I've served this nation honorably for more than half a century," said McCain, a four-term Arizona senator and former Navy pilot. "At no time have I ever done anything that would betray the public trust."
* McCain calls Times story on lobbyist untrue
* McCain Denies Inappropriate Relationship with Telecommunications Lobbyist
* McCain Denies Aides’ Statements About Lobbyist
* McCain denies allegations about lobbyist
* He Said, They Said
[Commentary] 1) McCain categorically denies an inappropriate relationship with the lobbyist in question, who denies the charge as well. 2) McCain categorically denies that members of his staff approached him to raise questions about his relationship. 3) McCain categorically denies improperly using his position on the Commerce Committee to help his lobbyist friend.
WHAT'S AT ISSUE?
* What Did McCain Actually Do for Iseman's Clients?
The question naturally arises whether anything is remarkable about this "champion of deregulation" responding to the desires of telecoms and media companies. Was it special attention or typical indulgence? When the Times took a look at McCain's actions as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee back in 2000, it reached the conclusion that McCain had frequently taken actions benefiting campaign contributors. Iseman's client Paxson was a case in point. The company and its lobbyists had contributed $20,000 to McCain and flown him around on their corporate jet. And that was the obvious angle to the stories about McCain's letters to the FCC in late 1999: that Mr. Straight Talk Express and campaign finance reform was at the beck and call of special interests. But Paxson was far from unique. The Times also reported that McCain had weighed in on behalf of Baby Bell telephone companies seeking to enter the long-distance business; two of those companies -- neither of them clients of Iseman -- had contributed a total of $167,000 to McCain. So while The Washington Post reports that Iseman would frequently tout her access to McCain to other lobbyists, it's not clear at this point what remarkable favors that supposed access won her.
* McCain Comments Distort FCC Matter
On Sen McCain's letters to the Federal Communications Commission on behalf of Paxson, it's true that the letter did not request a particular decision, it's not true that the FCC chairman saw no issue with the letter. As The Boston Globe reported way back in 2000, William Kennard, the FCC chair at the time, had immediately objected to McCain's December 10, 1999 letter, replying four days later that it was "highly unusual" and that he was "concerned" at what effect McCain's letter might have on the decision process. An earlier letter from McCain on the issue in November had not brought a similar rebuke. And McCain frequently wrote letters to the FCC requesting that it act on particular issues. But the December letter was remarkable for its insistence and call for each of the five commissioners to explain why they hadn't come to a decision. McCain's comments Thursday also skirted the issue of whether Iseman had sent information to his office for help in drafting the letter, as the Times reports, and elides discussion of the letter's effect. Iseman represented Paxson Communications, which was pushing for the FCC decision because it would have cleared the way for Paxson to buy a Pittsburgh television station. The lengthy statement out from McCain's campaign states that no one from Iseman's lobbying firm or Paxson "personally asked" McCain to send the letter to the FCC. But as the Times reported way back in 2000, it was no secret on the commission what outcome McCain was seeking. And on a 3-2 vote only days after his December letter, the commission approved the deal. Opponents of the sale cried foul, pointing in particular to the $20,000 Paxson and its lobbyists had contributed to McCain.
* Pittsburgh TV deal part of McCain controversy
* Senator McCain Muscles FCC to Approve Deal (December 22, 1999)
The Alliance for Progressive Action and the QED Accountability Project charge Senator John McCain with influencing Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approval of a hotly contested three-way Pittsburgh public television license exchange and sale. The decision favors Paxson Communications, a contributor to McCain's presidential bid. The community groups await a response from the General Counsel of the FCC to their late Monday request for an investigation of McCain's unusual actions.
* McCain's Letter to FCC and Excerpts From Replies
* Is John McCain Uncomfortably Close to Lowell ‘Bud’ Paxson?
As Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee in 2003-04, Sen McCain supported legislation that would have forced Paxson and handful of broadcasters but not the great bulk of television stations off the air by December 31, 2006. Bud Paxson himself personally testified about this bill with “fear and trepidation” at a hearing on September 8, 2004. Two weeks later, Sen McCain had reversed himself. He now supported legislation that would grant two-year reprieve for Paxson and instead force all broadcasters to stop transmitting analog television by December 31, 2008. Paxson and his lobbyists, including Iseman, were working at this time for just such a change. According to information compiled by the Center for Public Integrity’s “Well Connected” Project on Telecommunications and Media, John McCain is the single largest recipient of campaign contribution by Ion Media Networks and its predecessor, Paxson Communications. McCain received $36,000 from the company and employees from 1997 to mid-year 2006. The Well Connected Project also documents the $860,000 that Ion Media spent from 1998 to mid-year 2006. All of that money went though the lobbying firm of Alcade & Fay, where Iseman has been and remains one the principal lobbyists for Ion Media. According to documents available online from the Senate Office of Public Records, Ion is the client that Iseman has represented the longest, since at least 1998. Paxson has done more than simply contribute, and have his company contribute, to McCain. Paxson held at least one fund-raiser for McCain in Florida, where Ion Media is based.
* McCain interceded for donors, data show
[SOURCE: The Boston Globe, AUTHOR: Anne E. Kornblut and Walter V. Robinson]
Senator John McCain raised nearly $90,000 from broadcast and telecommunications companies in four instances shortly before or after he interceded on their behalf with federal regulators in 1998 and 1999, according to campaign records reviewed yesterday. Aides released about 500 letters that McCain has written as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee since 1997, and it appeared last night that only 15 involved contributors to his campaigns. McCain, who has built his presidential candidacy around denunciations of special-interest money in Washington, said yesterday that his only concern was to protect consumers. But in several cases, according to federal campaign finance records that were matched against the letters, the correspondence to the Federal Communications Commission, which McCain's committee oversees, coincided with substantial fund-raising efforts by the companies that stood to benefit from his actions.
* The Anti-Lobbyist, Advised by Lobbyists
For years, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has railed against lobbyists and the influence of "special interests" in Washington, touting on his campaign Web site his fight against "the 'revolving door' by which lawmakers and other influential officials leave their posts and become lobbyists for the special interests they have aided." But when McCain huddled with his closest advisers at his rustic Arizona cabin last weekend to map out his presidential campaign, virtually every one was part of the Washington lobbying culture he has long decried. His campaign manager, Rick Davis, co-founded a lobbying firm whose clients have included Verizon and SBC Telecommunications. His chief political adviser, Charles R. Black Jr., is chairman of one of Washington's lobbying powerhouses, BKSH and Associates, which has represented AT&T, Alcoa, JPMorgan and U.S. Airways. Senior advisers Steve Schmidt and Mark McKinnon work for firms that have lobbied for Land O' Lakes, UST Public Affairs, Dell and Fannie Mae.
WHO IS VICKI ISEMAN
[SOURCE: Alcalde & Fay]
Vicki Iseman, Partner, represents corporate and public clients on issues as diverse as government contracting and regulatory reform. Her experience includes representation of clients before Congress, Federal government agencies and local opinion leaders. She has extensive experience in telecommunications, representing corporations before the House and Senate Commerce Committees. Her work on the landmark 1992 and 1996 communications bills helped secure cable access for broadcast television stations. Her experience in the communications field includes digital television conversion, satellite regulations and telecommunications ownership provisions. She has been active in grassroots communications campaigns for clients, building community based support for legislative initiatives.
* Firm Where Woman Named in McCain Works Denounces 'NYT' Probe
Alcalde & Fay: "The allegations and malicious innuendo reported by the New York Times yesterday are completely and utterly false. Alcalde & Fay’s relationship with Senator McCain has been professional, appropriate and consistent with his legislative, jurisdictional and constituent duties. The story is based upon the fantasies of a disgruntled former campaign employee and is without foundation or merit. Ms. Iseman is a hard working professional whose 18 year career has been exemplary and she has our full support. It is beneath the dignity of a quality newspaper to participate in such a campaign of character assassination."
IS THIS GOOD JOURNALISM?
*'Times' Draws Criticism for Timing of McCain Story
Thursday's controversial scoop in The New York Times started with a tip about a confrontation between Arizona Sen. John McCain and some of his staff involving a lobbyist during his first run for the presidency in 2000, according to the newspaper Executive Editor Bill Keller. Then, Keller says, the story became more complex. "If, hypothetically, we had established that he had a romantic relationship with a lobbyist — and had done favors for that lobbyist — that would have been a different story," he says. But the newspaper was not able to confirm any relationship. Instead, Keller tells NPR that the article that ran Thursday morning provided a slightly different insight into one of the nation's leading candidates for president. "It's not a 'gotcha' story about some kind of quid pro quo," he says. "We don't know if there was a quid or a quo in this case. What we do know is that people very close to him, who watched him day after day, were worried enough by his behavior that they felt that he was endangering his career."
* Five Questions for Bill Keller (Columbia Journalism Review)
1) Is it true that you were initially against the story's publication? 2) Does the Times have information that corroborates its suggestion of an affair? 3) Did legal concerns change any of the final story’s content? 4) The piece’s only named source for the suggestion of a possible affair is John Weaver, McCain’s former strategist, whom the article calls “disillusioned” without offering further commentary. Given that, is “For McCain” an exception to the Times’s standards of reportorial transparency? 5) Though the Paxson affair made headlines at the time, the only new pieces of information “For McCain” provides, a decade later, are details of McCain’s relationship with Iseman, who lobbied for Paxson. Would “For McCain” have been a page-one story without its suggestions of sexual impropriety?
* The Long Run-Up (The New republic)
What's most remarkable about the article is that it appeared in the paper at all: The new information it reveals focuses on the private matters of the candidate, and relies entirely on the anecdotal evidence of McCain's former staffers to justify the piece -- both personal and anecdotal elements unusual in the Gray Lady. The story is filled with awkward journalistic moves--the piece contains a collection of decade-old stories about McCain and Iseman appearing at functions together and concerns voiced by McCain's aides that the Senator shouldn't be seen in public with Iseman -- and departs from the Times' usual authoritative voice.
* Why Did The NYT Hold McCain-Lobbyist Story?
So why would the Times hesitate to act? A number of theories, beyond threats of legal action, have been batted around by analysts. They range from the generous -- the paper could simply have thought it unfair to publish the story on the eve of a slew of presidential primaries -- to the nefarious -- the Times was waiting to unload on McCain only after he secured the nomination.
* The Senator and the Lobbyist
Here's the point: McCain, who nearly blew up his career with his involvement in the Keating Five scandal long ago, has for years portrayed himself as a reformer, an implacable foe of lobbyists, an unfailing crusader against the dreaded earmarks. To have such a high-profile relationship with a lobbyist on issues over which he has jurisdiction, replete with a trip on her client's corporate jet, is an appalling lapse of judgment, regardless of whether the two were sleeping together or spending all of their time playing chess or discussing the works of Hegel and Nietzsche. No wonder his staff was so upset.
* The Newspaper and the Senator
* N.Y. Times Gets Flak From All Sides on Explosive Story
If the Times couldn't make the case that McCain and Iseman had an intimate relationship -- and both have denied it -- was it fair to raise the issue? If a crucial allegation was that McCain aides, in 1999 and 2000, told the senator they were worried that the relationship appeared inappropriate and warned Iseman to stay away from their boss, is that worthy of front-page display? If the relevance rests on McCain having written letters to federal regulators nearly a decade ago that would have benefited Iseman's telecommunications clients, is that less newsworthy because it was reported at the time?
* McCain story proves incendiary among journalists, conservatives
Debate rages over the fairness of and the motivation behind a New York Times article on the senator's ties to a lobbyist.
MCCAIN CAMP VOWS TO 'GO TO WAR' WITH NYT
[SOURCE: Politico, AUTHOR: Jonathan Martin & Michael Caldrone]
John McCain’s campaign promised to “go to war” against The New York Times after the newspaper posted its long-awaited story on McCain's alleged relationship with a telecom lobbyist. The McCain campaign is using a two-pronged attack to push back against the story. First, they'll argue it was a thinly sourced piece of innuendo journalism. But McCain aides also will strike at the source, using the Times’ liberal reputation as a means of self-defense to draw sympathy from the GOP’s conservative base. To this end, a top McCain adviser accused the paper of practicing tabloid journalism.
MCCAIN COULD GAIN FROM REPORT ON LOBBYIST LINK
[SOURCE: Reuters, AUTHOR: Jason Szep]
A report of questionable ties between U.S. Republican presidential hopeful John McCain and a woman lobbyist on Thursday may ironically help him in one of his biggest struggles -- winning over conservative critics. The New York Times report could boost his standing with conservatives, an important and vociferous group who reject McCain's sometimes moderate policies but regard the newspaper as an enemy of the Republican Party. Some of the Arizona senator's most ardent conservative critics, including Sean Hannity of Fox, rallied to him after the Times report, taking issue with its sourcing and veracity. Some, like talk show host Rush Limbaugh and commentator Laura Ingraham, while hardly softening toward McCain, made the issue the newspaper's behavior, not that of the senator.
* McCain Hits Back With Donor Plea
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