Apparently this has been an open secret for years. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with a senator doing to a lobbyist what the lobbyists do to the rest of us. But it says something about a man’s morals when he isn’t even faithful to his trophy wife.
I’m sure the wingnuts will be in an uproar about the timing: if the Times had broken the story earlier, the GOP could have chosen a different nominee. The story says that McCain has been refusing interview requests on this since December.
Note also that McCain’s staff can’t even be bothered to tell a plausible lie. In light of what McCain has himself admitted about the Keating Five case, the claim that he has “never done favors for special interests or lobbyists” doesn’t pass the giggle test.
Update Josh Marshall thinks the Times knows more than it has printed, and notes that the statement from the McCain camp, while blustery, doesn’t actually deny any of the factual allegations in the story.
Second update Regardless of whom McCain was or was not shtupping, the AP’s version of the McCain/Iseman story has one allegation of a clear impropriety, in more detail than the Times version:
In late 1999, McCain twice wrote letters to the Federal Communications Commission on behalf of Florida-based Paxson Communications — which had paid Iseman as its lobbyist — urging quick consideration of a proposal to buy a television station license in Pittsburgh. At the time, Paxson’s chief executive, Lowell W. “Bud” Paxson, also was a major contributor to McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign.
McCain did not urge the FCC commissioners to approve the proposal, but he asked for speedy consideration of the deal, which was pending from two years earlier. In an unusual response, then-FCC Chairman William Kennard complained that McCain’s request “comes at a sensitive time in the deliberative process” and “could have procedural and substantive impacts on the commission’s deliberations and, thus, on the due process rights of the parties.”
McCain wrote the letters after he received more than $20,000 in contributions from Paxson executives and lobbyists. Paxson also lent McCain his company’s jet at least four times during 1999 for campaign travel.
“No favors for lobbyists or special interests”? Are you sure? Is it routine for a Senator from Arizona to pressure regulatory agencies on behalf of companies based in Florida? [Added note: Megan McArdle points out that just getting a speedy resolution is worth a lot, even assuming, implausibly, that McCain really intended to influence the timing but not the outcome.] Let’s hear McCain’s campaign (headed by a lobbyist who is donating his time) deny this, or explain it.
Third update The McCain campaign apparently plans to stonewall:
Neither Senator McCain nor the campaign will dignify false rumors and gossip by responding to them.
That’s press-release-ese for “Yeah, it’s true, but you can’t prove it.”
But the WaPo did manage to get a denial on one aspect of the Paxson affair:
McCain’s campaign denied that Iseman or anyone else from her firm or from Paxson “discussed with Senator McCain” the FCC’s consideration of the station deal. “Neither Ms. Iseman, nor any representative of Paxson and Alcalde and Fay, personally asked Senator McCain to send a letter to the FCC regarding this proceeding,” the campaign said.
But note the carefull wording: “discussed with Senator McCain” “personally asked Senator McCain.” That’s fully consistent with Iseman’s having asked a staffer.
Here’s the full response from the McCain camp. The claim is that both sides in the dispute wanted it resolved quicky, and that McCain didn’t weigh in on the substance, just on the timing. It ought to be possible to check that fact with the “public broadcasting activists” who opposed Paxson’s application.
[Some thoughts on why McCain gets such an easy ride from the press here.]
Here’s another take, from a single woman who has spent time in political and media Washington.