Politics

Black Claims McCain’s Campaign Is Above Lobbyist Influence: ‘I Don’t Know What The Criticism Is’

Last week, BKSH & Associates chairman Charlie Black announced that he was quitting his lobbying firm to join Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) presidential campaign full-time, effective March 31. Prior to this arrangement, however, Black had already been serving as a senior adviser to the campaign.

Yesterday on CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight, Black claimed that he was the only “senior staff” member on the McCain campaign who was a lobbyist:

DOBBS: Well, you know, lobbyists, no one rails against them more than I do as you know Charlie. The criticism of having so many lobbyists in the McCain campaign, what is the response?

BLACK: “Where are they?” is the response. If you look at the senior staff, the top 12, 15, 20 people of the McCain campaign, there’s no one other than me who was a lobbyist — a currently active lobbyist. Now I am not. I don’t know what the criticism is.

Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2008/04/blacklobbyistsmcccc.320.240.flv]

At the last moment, Black catches himself and notes that none of McCain’s senior staff members are “currently active” lobbyists. But whether or not they are currently active is besides the point for a campaign that has consistently blasted the influence of lobbyists in government. Additionally, many of these aides do retain their lobbying connections.

Black is trying to claim that the McCain campaign is not influenced by lobbyists. But in January, ABC News reported that McCain had “59 lobbyists raising money for his campaign, more than any of the other presidential candidates,” according to research by Public Citizen.

McCain’s advisers have a history of using their connections to the senator to win lucrative contracts, raising questions about the independence of their work now. McCain, similarly, has pushed for positions that have benefited his advisers’ past and current clients. Some examples of the lobbyist ties of McCain’s senior staff:

— Rick Davis, Campaign Manager: Between 2002 and 2005, Verizon paid Davis $640,000 to lobby on its behalf. Davis signed Verizon up as a client in 2001, just a year after he managed McCain’s first presidential campaign. McCain served as Senate Commerce Committee chairman for most of that time. Verizon and Davis terminated their contract after 2005, when McCain gave up the chairmanship. [Senate Lobbying Database; USA Today, 3/23/08]

— Christian Ferry, Deputy Campaign Manager: Ferry “partnered with Davis in representing SBC and Verizon from 2003 to 2005.” [USA Today, 3/23/08]

— David Crane, Senior Policy Adviser: Crane is a lobbyist and president of Quadripoint Strategies and “served as a senior policy advisor” to McCain on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. “He previously worked as a lobbyist and senior vice president for Global USA and The Washington Group. His clients have included Bank of America, the Financial Services Roundtable, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.” [Media Matters, 2/26/08]

— John Green, Congressional Liaison: Green is co-founder and managing director of Ogilvy Government Relations, one of Washington’s most powerful lobbying firms. Recently, McCain pushed the Pentagon to open the bidding process for new Air Force tankers to EADS — a European company — “a move loudly objected to…by numerous members of Congress.” Green received $1,080,000 to lobby for EADS, although he is now on a “leave of absence” from Ogilvy. [AP, 3/11/08]

— Thomas Loeffler, Campaign Co-Chairman: Loeffler is founder, chairman, and senior partner at the Loeffler Group. While serving as McCain’s national finance chairman, Loeffler also lobbied for EADS in the Air Force deal. [AP, 3/11/08]

— Susan Nelson, Campaign Finance Director: “Before joining the campaign last year, Nelson represented AT&T and Qualcomm for the Loeffler Group in 2006 and 2007. She also represented Verizon in 2004 while working at Ogilvy Government Relations.” [USA Today, 3/23/08]

— Wayne Berman, National Finance Committee Co-Chairman: Berman is the managing director of Ogilvy Government Relations and “has represented AT&T since last year, and Verizon and Verizon Wireless since 2004. Co-workers and their spouses at Ogilvy, formerly known as the Federalist Group, gave McCain’s campaigns $38,550 in the past decade.” [USA Today, 3/23/08]

— Doug Davenport, Regional Chairman: Just yesterday, GOP sources reported that the McCain will be hiring Davenport as one its 10 regional campaign managers. Davenport is founder of the DCI Group and heads its lobbying practice. In the past, DCI “helped set up Progress for America, the well-funded 527 that assisted President Bush in the 2004 elections.” [Ambinder, 4/2/08]

Media Matters has more here and here outlining McCain’s connections to lobbyists.

Transcript:

DOBBS: Why did you just simply on the basis of conflict of interest, you decided it would be better to be full time?

BLACK: Well, no actually Senator McCain asked me to do a fairly significant job for the campaign that’s going to be a six or seven-day-a week job. I’m totally devoted to his election so in order to do that, I needed to leave my other business. But along the way, some people in the other party have raised questions about having lobbyists play big roles in campaigns.

So I’ve resigned. I’m now a retired lobbyist. Nobody can allege a conflict.

DOBBS: Well, you know, lobbyists, no one rails against them more than I do as you know Charlie. The criticism of having so many lobbyists in the McCain campaign, what is the response?

BLACK: “Where are they?” is the response. If you look at the senior staff, the top 12, 15, 20 people of the McCain campaign, there’s no one other than me that was a lobbyist, a currently active lobbyist. Now I am not. I don’t know what the criticism is.

UPDATE

Mark Halperin has an interview with Black about his lobbying ties.

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