Straight Talk speak with forked tongue

McCain claimed that his letter to the FCC was designed to get a speedy decision, as desired by both sides to the controversy. But at the time the lawyer for the opponents of the deal denounced it angrily.

Looks as if John McCain was … umm … deviating from the path of straight talk … when his campaign claimed that the letter he sent to the FCC on behalf of Vicki Iseman’s client Paxson Communications was simply designed to get a quick answer, as desired by both proponents and opponents of the deal. At the time, the lawyer for the opponents said the letter was “improper, unethical, violated FCC rules barring such contacts on pending FCC matters, and appeared designed to assist a major contributor.” Paul Kiel at TPM explains. [Relevant portion of McCain’s statement at the jump.]

Now the question is whether the major media outlets to which that lie was sent and which published stories based on it will react to the revelation that they was had. The apparent misconduct is eight years in the past. That makes it old news. The apparent lie is this week. That makes it &#8212 or at least should make it &#8212 news.

Update Mike Isikoff reports that McCain testified under oath that he had in fact talked to Mr. Paxson about the FCC issue, contradicting another passage in the statement released by the campaign this week:

No representative of Paxson or Alcalde and Fay discussed with Senator McCain the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proceeding regarding the transfer of Pittsburgh public television station (WQED) to Cornerstone Broadcasting and Cornerstone Broadcasting’s television station (WPCB) to Paxson.

Here’s the passage in question from McCain’s statement:

Senator McCain’s Commerce Committee staff recalls meeting with representatives of Alcalde and Fay concerning the FCC’s failure to act on the transfer application. Staff also met with public broadcasting activists from the Pittsburgh area about the transfer application. While the two parties differed in their desired outcome from the FCC, both parties expressed to staff members their frustration that the proceeding had been before the FCC for over two years. Both parties asked the staff to contact the FCC regarding the proceeding. Senator McCain’s personal staff did not meet with any parties regarding this transfer.

While neither the Senator nor his Staff agreed to take, nor did they ever take, a position on the proposed transfer, Committee Staff did agree to draft a letter from Senator McCain to FCC Chairman Bill Kennard, dated November 17, 1999 that began, “I write today to express my concern about the Commission’s continuing failure to act on the pending applications for assignment of the licenses of WQEX(TV) and WPCB(TV), Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.” The letter did not call for the Commission to resolve the matter in favor of either party, and specifically stated, “This letter is not written to secure a favorable resolution for any party on any substantive issue pending before the Commission. Please treat this letter in full compliance with all applicable, legal, ethical, and procedural rules.” Clearly, the purpose of the letter was to request action on the transfer application, not to promote a resolution favorable to a particular applicant.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: