John McCain's website tells visitors, "Too often the special interest lobbyists with the fattest wallets and best access carry the day." It sounds like a compelling sentiment from a one-time reformer, and might even be impressive, just so long as you don't peek behind the curtain.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) took a break from the presidential campaign trail in March to fly to a posh Utah ski resort, where he mingled with hundreds of top corporate executives assembled by J.P. Morgan Chase for its annual leadership conference.
McCain's appearance at the Deer Valley event, arranged by J.P. Morgan Vice Chairman James B. Lee Jr., a top McCain fundraiser, put him in a room with the chief executives of companies such as General Electric, Xerox and Sony. It was, Lee said, "a chance for him to let them see him for who he is and possibly decide to support him." The effort paid off: J.P. Morgan executives have donated $56,250 to McCain's campaign, two-thirds of which came after his Utah appearance. And his visit there was quickly followed up by dozens of smaller private meetings with corporate executives in New York City arranged by leading Wall Street figures. [...]
As a presidential candidate this year, McCain has found himself assiduously courting both lobbyists and their wealthy clients, offering them private audiences as part of his fundraising. He also counts more than 30 lobbyists among his chief fundraisers, more than any other presidential contender.
It's certainly an awkward disconnect, isn't it? McCain is a "reformer," who rails against "special interests" and their "undue influence." Ever since that Keating 5 unpleasantness a while back, McCain has positioned himself as the Republicans' leading advocate of campaign-finance reform, denouncing colleagues who offer special access to donors in order to fill their campaign coffers.
And yet, there's McCain, giving powerful corporate lobbyists and their clients high-priced private schmooze sessions at exclusive retreats.
For that matter, let's also not forget that McCain not only surrounds himself with lobbyist fundraisers; he's also surrounded himself with more lobbyist staffers than any other candidate -- and more than most of the field combined.