Wednesday, February 20, 2008

McCain In Bed With Lobbyist?


Bloggers wonder: What did Mike Huckabee know, and when did he know it?


Get your minds out of the gutter. I meant that as a metaphor, sillies.

It’s inevitable that people will latch onto this story’s more prurient elements. But that’s not where the news is.

The story is not whether John McCain did or did not have an affair with a woman 30 years his junior. The story is that a telecom lobbyist had a relationship with a Senator when her client had business before his committee. It speaks to his ethics, integrity and credibility, which is why his staff intervened:
[E]ven the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity.

It had been just a decade since an official favor for a friend with regulatory problems had nearly ended Mr. McCain’s political career by ensnaring him in the Keating Five scandal. In the years that followed, he reinvented himself as the scourge of special interests, a crusader for stricter ethics and campaign finance rules, a man of honor chastened by a brush with shame.

But the concerns about Mr. McCain’s relationship with Ms. Iseman underscored an enduring paradox of his post-Keating career. Even as he has vowed to hold himself to the highest ethical standards, his confidence in his own integrity has sometimes seemed to blind him to potentially embarrassing conflicts of interest.

Indeed, it seems John McCain isn’t so much a “maverick” as arrogant and narcissistic. Just what we need in the White House. Again.

McCain has been a good friend to the telecom industry. Back when he was supposedly canoodling with Vicki Iseman he wrote a letter on behalf her client, Paxson Communications. In 2002 he sponsored the Telecommunications Ownership Diversification Act, which absolutely thrilled Clear Channel.

Last week he came through for Big Telecom again, voting to give them immunity from lawsuits related to warrentless wiretaps.

For you kids who don’t remember, here’s a little recap on the Keating scandal:

During Mr. McCain’s four years in the House, Mr. Keating, his family and his business associates contributed heavily to his political campaigns. The banker gave Mr. McCain free rides on his private jet, a violation of Congressional ethics rules (he later said it was an oversight and paid for the trips). They vacationed together in the Bahamas. And in 1986, the year Mr. McCain was elected to the Senate, his wife joined Mr. Keating in investing in an Arizona shopping mall.

Mr. Keating had taken over the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association and used its federally insured deposits to gamble on risky real estate and other investments. He pressed Mr. McCain and other lawmakers to help hold back federal banking regulators.

For years, Mr. McCain complied. At Mr. Keating’s request, he wrote several letters to regulators, introduced legislation and helped secure the nomination of a Keating associate to a banking regulatory board.
By early 1987, though, the thrift was careering toward disaster. Mr. McCain agreed to join several senators, eventually known as the Keating Five, for two private meetings with regulators to urge them to ease up. “Why didn’t I fully grasp the unusual appearance of such a meeting?” Mr. McCain later lamented in his memoir.

When Lincoln went bankrupt in 1989 — one of the biggest collapses of the savings and loan crisis, costing taxpayers $3.4 billion — the Keating Five became infamous. The scandal sent Mr. Keating to prison and ended the careers of three senators, who were censured in 1991 for intervening. Mr. McCain, who had been a less aggressive advocate for Mr. Keating than the others, was reprimanded only for “poor judgment” and was re-elected the next year.

So, after barely emerging from a national scandal with his career intact, 10 years later he forges, ahem, a “bond” with a telecom lobbyist whose clients appear before his committee.

Yeah, I’d say someone was getting screwed all right--US.