McCain OK with Keeping One Burma Junta Lobbyist on Campaign
by Jonathan Singer, Sat May 10, 2008 at 06:58:34 PM EDT
After having read account after account after account of John McCain's all-too-close relationship with lobbyists, it's hard for me to get too surprised at reading another account. Or at least I thought it was until reading Michael Isikoff today in Newsweek.
After John McCain nailed down the Republican nomination in March, his campaign began wrestling with a sensitive personnel issue: who would manage this summer's GOP convention in St. Paul, Minn.? The campaign recently tapped Doug Goodyear for the job, a veteran operative and Arizonan who was chosen for his "management experience and expertise," according to McCain press secretary Jill Hazelbaker. But some allies worry that Goodyear's selection could fuel perceptions that McCain--who has portrayed himself as a crusader against special interests--is surrounded by lobbyists. Goodyear is CEO of DCI Group, a consulting firm that earned $3 million last year lobbying for ExxonMobil, General Motors and other clients.
Potentially more problematic: the firm was paid $348,000 in 2002 to represent Burma's military junta, which had been strongly condemned by the State Department for its human-rights record and remains in power today. Justice Department lobbying records show DCI pushed to "begin a dialogue of political reconciliation" with the regime. It also led a PR campaign to burnish the junta's image, drafting releases praising Burma's efforts to curb the drug trade and denouncing "falsehoods" by the Bush administration that the regime engaged in rape and other abuses. "It was our only foreign representation, it was for a short tenure, and it was six years ago," Goodyear told NEWSWEEK, adding the junta's record in the current cyclone crisis is "reprehensible."
Another issue: DCI has been a pioneer in running "independent" expenditure campaigns by so-called 527 groups, precisely the kind of operations that McCain, in his battle for campaign-finance reform, has denounced. In 2004, the DCI Group led a pro-Bush 527 called Progress for America, which was later fined (along with several other 527s on both sides of the political divide) for violating federal election laws. Goodyear, however, says that DCI is "not in the 527 business anymore."
Once the Isikoff article was published, it was only a matter of hours before Goodyear had left the campaign. After all, at a time when the Burmese junta is preventing much-needed aid from reaching those devastated by the recent cyclone in the country, having a man who lobbied on behalf of that rightfully maligned dictatorship run a party convention just doesn't look good. But apparently, it's alright in the eyes of McCain to keep one of the junta's lobbyists on board of his campaign committee, as Marc Ambinder points out this evening.
Discussion: Optics. What becomes now of Doug Davenport, the DCI lobbying czar who is a campaign regional manager? A campaign spokesperson referred comment to Davenport, who did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment. As the head DCI lobbyist, Mr. Davenport would have been directly in charge of the Myanmar account during 2002.
Now having read the reporting of both Isikoff and Ambinder, I'm close to speechless. The sheer hubris of John McCain in believing a) that it's alright to have his campaign almost entirely run by lobbyists; b) that it's alright to continue to employ a lobbyist for the Burmese junta as a regional campaign manager; and c) that he shouldn't be questioned about things like this, just blows me away. I don't know what more I can say now than just wow.