Just How Closely Is McCain Tied To “Special Interests”?

“Everyone says they’re against the special interests, but I’m the only one the special interests don’t give any money to.”John McCain, November 18th, 2007

It’s as natural a fit on something called the Straight Talk Express as anything else; a vehement opposition to the strangle-hold that lobbyists have on Washington policy-making.  For John McCain, his rhetoric against the power that lobbyists have accrued is clear and unmistakable–he’s against it.

It’s populism in Republican clothing, and an asset to the Maverick whose appeal this fall will not come from a deeply embedded stance in movement conservatism, but instead a departure from the current Republican norm.  Not necessarily a departure from neoconservative tailored Foreign Policy stances, nor from the oversimplified approach to the economy that cutting taxes will fix everything.

Indeed, where John McCain’s narrative separates him from the rest of the flock is how deftly he pushes away from the “culture of corruption” label that has been so successfully pinned on to many of his colleagues.  The subtext makes it pretty clear; as long as he’s honest, we should be able to forgive him for subscribing to many of the failed policies that George W. Bush endorsed.

There is a sort of silliness to such assertions however.  After all, the scandal riddled Bush White House was only partly to blame for general public unrest; the rest of the formula, even with scandals removed, still involved ideas that were in general pretty bad.

But let’s make no mistake, there are more than a handful of people in this country that think that Bush’s failures came not from his ideas, but in their execution; that if we only had a smarter and more trustworthy Bush, things would be just fine.

McCain may have ceded some ground on the smarter argument; his military credentials will bolster his stock on Foreign Policy, but he’s already admitted he doesn’t know much about the economy.  But at least he’s trying to portray himself as a more honest version of Bush.  One that may drag us through the doldrums, but at least have the courtesy to not force rose colored glasses over our eyes while he does so.

Central to this idea is the assertion that McCain is not beholden to special interests, that he’s not in bed with lobbyists.  A recent New York Times article that claimed he actually went to bed with a lobbyist, however, scratched away at this anti-special-interests armor even if the sex thrown in for spice ended up being a off target.

It reminded us of the Keating Five scandal, and brought up close ties that McCain had with the Paxson lobbying firm.  Indeed, in the aftermath of the article, the sexual innuendo may have been laid to rest indefinitely, but it helped bring to light another very important fact.

McCain not only lied when he said special interests don’t give him money, but it turns out that by far he receives more money from special interests and lobbyists than either of the two remaining Democratic candidates.

One would hope that this would put an end to McCain’s current dealing with lobbyists in order to at least make his statements in the present true, but instead McCain seems to be heading in the exact opposite direction.  Instead of running away from the lobbyists, he is running towards them.

John McCain is enlisting John Green to head up his campaign’s presidential efforts–in Washington DC.  On the floor of the Senate there may  not necessarily be an awful lot of votes to cast for president, but given that the General Election will be between two senators from opposing parties, a rigorous effort to guide the happenings on the Hill could provide adequate fodder or cover.

Remember, one of the two primary reasons senators tend to have a tough time in presidential elections is because they have long and intricate records that can easily be spun by an opponent to paint virtually any picture one likes.

And John Green’s job is to lobby the Senate to help McCain and hinder either Obama or Clinton.

He should be good at it, too, given that he’s probably got extensive experience being a founding partner of Ogilvy Government Relations; a lobbying group formerly known as the Federalist Group.

Who is Ogilvy?  Ogilvy is one of the biggest GOP lobbying firms, though it claims that since it switched up from the Federalist Group to Ogilvy Government Relations it backed off of its once highly partisan nature.  Still, that hasn’t stopped the firm from representing some notable clients such as the NRA.

Indeed, one client that really stands out from the pack is the Blackstone group that paid Ogilvy over four million dollars last year.  Blackstone is itself a private investments firm that advised Enron around the time of its great meltdown as well as earning the esteemed status of being a Bush “ranger” (providing over 100k in campaign donations).

Other interesting clients of note include the Carlyle Group, Citigroup, Chevron, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, National Pork Producers Council (insert pork barrel spending joke here), Visa, United Health Group, and a slew of telecom companies such as AT&T and Verizon.  The telecom representations I find particularly interesting given the recent FISA battle going on on the Hill for retroactive immunity.

These special interests and more are represented in government at least in part by the man who will become essentially John McCain’s strategic liaison to the Senate while he attempts to win the General Election.  And there’s a reason why it’s important.

Look at the monetary contributions:

Client Total Subsidiary (Lobbied For)
Acadian Ambulance Service $100,000
Affiliated Computer Services $120,000 ACS State & Local Solutions
AFLAC Inc $40,000
Alabama Wildlife Federation $80,000
Alliance for Downtown New York $60,000
Alternative Investment Management Assn $120,000
Amerada Hess Corp $120,000
Ameren Corp $120,000
American Chemistry Council $240,000
American International Group $560,000 AIG Highstar Capital
American International Group $200,000
American Petroleum Institute $320,000
American Trucking Assn $320,000
Ameriqual Group $100,000
Ameriquest Capital $20,000 Ameriquest Mortgage
Amports Inc $100,000
Assn of Intl Automobile Manufacturers $100,000
AT&T Inc $160,000
Birmingham Airport Authority $120,000
Black, Kelly et al $160,000
Blackstone Group $4,460,000
Broidy Capital Management $380,000
Brownstein, Hyatt et al $20,000
Canton Group $20,000
Carlyle Group $540,000
Chevron Corp $180,000
CIBT Inc $120,000
Citigroup Inc $320,000
College Loan Corp $100,000
Constellation Energy $260,000
Credit Suisse Group $120,000 Credit Suisse First Boston
Creditor’s Interchange $40,000
Dallas-Ft Worth International Airport $180,000
Doctors Hospital at Renaissance $20,000
Electric Power Supply Assn $80,000
Enterprise Rent-A-Car $180,000
European Aeronautic Defence & Space $240,000 EADS North America
Fannie Mae $120,000
Fitch Ratings $100,000
FMR Corp $120,000 Fidelity Investments
Gas Technology Institute $40,000
Hydrostar $240,000
Icahn Assoc $260,000
Integrated Wave Technologies $20,000
International Buddhism Sangha Assn’s $20,000
International Packaged Ice Assn $60,000
Intuit Inc $200,000
Inverness Medical Innovations $120,000
Ionatron Inc $240,000
Jay Ghazal & Assoc $40,000
JC Bamford $320,000
Kentucky Community/Technical College $160,000
Lifecare Inc $200,000
MDVIP Inc $120,000
Medical Device Manufacturers Assn $80,000
Millennium Pharmaceuticals $100,000
Mirant Corp $200,000
Monsanto Co $240,000
Motorola Inc $240,000
National Fedn of Independent Business $240,000
National Pork Producers Council $100,000
National Rifle Assn $360,000
Negro Leagues Baseball Museum $20,000
New York Mercantile Exchange $80,000
Nucor Corp $200,000
Office Furniture Manufacturers Coalition $200,000
Pernod Ricard $200,000
Pfizer Inc $240,000
PJM Interconnection $200,000
Poker Players Alliance $480,000
Ports America Inc $280,000
Property Casualty Insurers Assn/America $40,000
Recording Industry Assn of America $80,000
Reliant Energy $180,000
Roche Group $240,000 Hoffmann-La Roche
Roche Group $220,000 Roche Diagnostics
Safari Club International $200,000
SAP America $240,000
Sempra Energy $200,000
Southeastern Consulting $40,000
Star Atlantic $320,000
State of Texas $20,000 Texas Office of State-Federal Realtions
Temple, TX $80,000
Thermofisher Scientific $80,000
Thurgood Marshall Academy $40,000
UniGroup Inc $120,000
United Egg Producers $40,000
United Parcel Service $20,000
United Site Services Inc $140,000
UnitedHealth Group $80,000 AmeriChoice Corp
UnitedHealth Group $240,000
University of Chicago $440,000
University of South Alabama $120,000
Validus Services $60,000
Verizon Communications $920,000
Verizon Communications $240,000 Verizon Wireless
Viacom Inc $200,000
Vianovo $140,000
Virgin Group $160,000 Virgin Atlantic Airways
Visa International $200,000 Visa USA
Yeshiva University $40,000

(note, from opensecrets.org courtesy Center for Responsive Politics)

The purpose of lobbying is to give voice to people in government with their elected representative.  Not all special interests are necessarily evil, and in a way the concept of lobbying can be quite democratic–allowing people of similar views to come together and create a stronger voice that has a better chance to be heard over the partisan din of Washington DC.

But that’s not what we’re looking at here.  We’re looking at corporations that are already perversely empowered by considerable wealth increasing their influence in government even more by spending wealth that we don’t have to drown our voices out.  This is not democratic, it’s hedging one’s bets and it’s oppressive.

Politicians who are above such influences are to be commended, but if John McCain insists he’s part of this rare breed, it might help if the lobbyists aren’t actually running his campaign.

Otherwise it’s nothing more than banal demagoguery.

UPDATE: This story has already fallen off the page at Memeorandum, and is going largely ignored I see.  This would be one of the reasons we Dems should probably give the infighting a break or else this guy’s going to catch a free ride for far too long.

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  1. Dear Kitty. Some blog :: Primary elections in Texas and Ohio, USA :: March :: 2008 - [...] This video by Robert Greenwald from the USA is called John McCain’s Lobbyist Friends. See also here. [...]

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