You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Mccain's Lobbyist Problem

According to Michael Scherer, the problem is that he doesn't have enough of them:

His penchant for sometimes impulsive action has, in one high-profile case, backfired on his campaign. Reports surfaced in early May that two campaign aides had worked a few years earlier representing the military junta in Burma. When he read the news, he was furious and ordered up a strict new policy against lobbyists on his team. "McCain wasn't happy, and he acted quickly," says an associate of the Senator's. "He said, 'I want the strictest policy against lobbyists we can have, the strictest anybody's ever had.' And that was it."

Except it wasn't. McCain had been leaning on current and former lobbyists for months in part because he's never had a grassroots fund-raising operation akin to Obama's. As a result, he had to shoot down questions about all the special pleaders working for his campaign. "These people have honorable records," he said in February. "And they're honorable people." But his new policy, which was stricter than what some senior advisers favored, undid all that straight talk and prompted a weeklong purge inside the campaign. A number of lobbyists were tossed over the side overnight, generating resentment. Most won't be missed much, but some will: gone is Loeffler, a lobbyist for Saudi Arabia, who played a central role in campaign fund raising and who functioned in effect as chief financial officer. As with others who departed, Loeffler's outside work was no secret inside the campaign. "The story was dead, and they resurrected it themselves," observes a Republican campaign strategist who, like others who spoke with TIME, declined to be interviewed on the record.

Others suggested that the lobbyist problem will make fund raising even harder and has slowed the efforts to scale McCain's lean, insurgent campaign to the size he and his party will need to win in the fall.

Seriously, if you're a Republican candidate and you're going to forswear the services of lobbyists, then you're going to deprive yourself of a good portion of the GOP's talent pool.

--Jason Zengerle