Scores of lobbyists were invited to the Willard Hotel to feed his campaign treasury, but, as the paper reports, "McCain himself skipped the event, an act he later called 'cowardly.' " Here, McCain has it three ways: He throws the event, he skips it, he criticizes himself for not attending it. Will the real John McCain please stand up?Yes, how is this "straight talk?"
And so on. The Times reports that the enemy of special interests, money in politics, earmarks, and lobbyists has staffed his presidential campaign with lobbyists and recently hired a lobbyist to run his Senate office. That particular lobbyist, Mark Buse, the paper reports, came to McCain's staff through the revolving door. Before he was a telecommunication industry lobbyist, Buse was the director of McCain's commerce committee staff.Personally, I don't care about the affair or non-affair. As many have noted, it is rather ridiculous for McCain's wife to posture about "he would never do that to our family" after he did exactly that to his first wife. But the real issue is about allowing lobbyists access beyond the pale and how that access distorts the political process.
When critics question McCain's integrity, his allies, such as McCain adviser and lobbyist Charles Black, say the man is beyond reproach. "Unless he gives you special treatment or takes legislative action against his own views, I don't think his personal and social relationships matter," Black told the Times.
This, of course, is hooey. What the lobbyist craves above all is access, and anything that provides that edge is coveted. In many cases, both lobbyists and their clients know the mission to change the mind of a member of Congress is hopeless. Often the point of the exercise is to be seen and heard by the member. If the lobbyist does not carry the day with the member, the client counts on the "relationship" to pay off in the next visit or the visit after that or the visit after that.
Getting inside the "red zone," to steal a metaphor from Washington Post reporter Jeffrey H. Birnbaum's feature about the tourism industry's recent lobbying efforts, is almost as good as a touchdown. Corruption, if that's the right word for it, arrives on the installment plan as a lobbyist moves closer and closer to a member.