Might As Well Face It, He's Addicted to Lobbyists
by Jonathan Singer, Tue Mar 04, 2008 at 07:16:13 AM EST
Sometimes you just have to know when to say no -- a lesson John McCain has not yet learned.
Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain has engaged a leading GOP lobbyist to coordinate his message and travel schedule with congressional Republicans -- the most concrete sign yet that the biggest battleground in the 2008 presidential race may not be Pennsylvania or Ohio or Florida's I-4 corridor but rather the floor of the United States Senate.
John Green, a founding partner of what is now Ogilvy Government Relations, will soon take a leave of absence from that firm to work as a full-time liaison between McCain's presidential campaign and Republicans in the House and the Senate, according to GOP aides on Capitol Hill and McCain surrogates downtown. Green, a Mississippi native, has strong ties in the Senate after his years of work for former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), a vocal McCain supporter who left Congress late last year to set up his own lobbying shop.
Green is part of a small cadre of lobbyists who have met regularly to help build support for McCain on Capitol Hill. The group, which includes fellow Ogilvy partner Wayne Berman, has been helping the senator secure congressional endorsements in recent weeks to ensure he solidifies his status as the GOP front-runner.
John McCain just doesn't know how to say "no" to lobbyists -- and perhaps even more problematically, McCain doesn't know how to get things done without having lobbyists in tow. Right now the establishment media -- and even some in the so-called "reform community" -- appear more than willing to continue to give McCain a pass in this area despite their brief interlude of reporting on these ties. But this won't necessarily last forever, particularly given that some of McCain's top advisors admit to lobbying on McCain's campaign bus.
But even as [McCain's chief political strategist Charlie] Black provides a private voice and a public face for McCain, he also leads his lobbying firm, which offers corporate interests and foreign governments the promise of access to the most powerful lawmakers. Some of those companies have interests before the Senate and, in particular, the Commerce Committee, of which McCain is a member.
Black said he does a lot of his work by telephone from McCain's Straight Talk Express bus.
Again, this unfortunately is not yet completely on the radar of the American people. But it is setting the groundwork for the eventual Democratic nominee -- either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton (though I think Obama can make the more forceful argument here) -- to raise the important question of whether the American public wants the next administration to be of the lobbyists, by the lobbyists and for the lobbyists, or rather one where the public servants are actually serving the public. (It's a bit harder for someone who defended lobbyists as representatives of "real people" to make that argument, though not impossible.) And when push comes to shove, it's hard for me to imagine the public saying they would prefer an administration in which Washington special interests having a hotline within the White House because of all of the work they did to elect that President to one in which lobbyists don't have veto power over the President's decision-making process.