The Washington Post reports today that Sen. John McCain’s senior foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann may have used his position in the McCain campaign for his own financial benefit by advancing the interests of his former lobbying client, the Georgian government:
Sen. John McCain’s top foreign policy adviser prepped his boss for an April 17 phone call with the president of Georgia and then helped the presumptive Republican presidential nominee prepare a strong statement of support for the fledgling republic.
The day of the call, a lobbying firm [Orion Strategies] partly owned by the adviser, Randy Scheunemann, signed a $200,000 contract to continue providing strategic advice to the Georgian government in Washington.
The McCain campaign responded saying, “Georgia’s lobbying contract with Orion Strategies had no bearing on the candidate’s decision to speak with President Mikheil Saakashvili and did not influence his statement,” they said.
But there appears to be more evidence of Scheunemann using McCain for financial gain. In 2005, operating as Georgia’s lobbyist, Scheunemann may have engineered McCain’s nomination of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili for the Nobel Peace Prize just before his contract with the Georgian government was due to expire. Here are the details:
— In March 2004, Scheunemann signed his first contract worth $150,000 with the Georgian government to provide “advice and consulting services concerning Georgia’s full integration into Western institutions.” By the time the contract was signed, McCain had become a favorite target of Scheunemann’s lobbying.
— As Scheunemann’s year-long contract with Georgia neared expiration, McCain and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) nominated Saakashvili for the Nobel Peace Prize, despite his mixed human and civil rights record. On January 25, 2005, McCain and Clinton wrote that Saakashvili had “won popular support for the universal values of democracy, individual liberty, and civil rights.”
— On March 15, 2005 — just weeks after being nominated for the Nobel Prize — Saakashvili’s government signed a new 12-month contract with Scheunemann, worth nearly a quarter-million dollars.
Given this context, Scheunemann’s lobbying is troubling. Rather than simply advocating on behalf of the Georgian government, is Scheunemann, in fact, able to manipulate McCain’s policy statements for his own financial gain?