May 21, 2008

As John McCain has gone through a series of ideological shifts, so too has his approach to lobbyists. For years, McCain dealt with lobbyists the same way most lawmakers do: taking their money and offering them influence. After McCain’s role in the Keating Five scandal, for which he was admonished by the Senate Ethics Committee, McCain adopted the role of a “reformer,” who railed against the undo access given to lobbyists.

For the 2008 presidential campaign, McCain switched again, embracing lobbyists and hiring a legion of lobbyists to run his entire campaign operation. Now, after a series of controversies and fired aides, lobbyists are looking at the McCain team and asking, “This is the thanks we get?

It was a small band of loyal lobbyists who stood by presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain last August when his campaign went broke and his White House aspirations seemed doomed.

They raised money for him under impossible odds and kept him company in budget hotels during his darkest days.

Now they are under siege as McCain purges active lobbyists from his campaign team in a quest to wrest the reformist title from Democrat Barack Obama, his likely opponent in this fall’s general election.

Five lobbyists were shown the door in eight days, which didn’t help on K Street. “If it was OK to have these people working for you in February, why is it not OK today?” asked one Republican lobbyist.

Another added, “McCain’s self-righteous [expletive] has caught up with him. Now he’s got himself in a jam.”

Yet another said, “I find it a little offensive. It was good enough to get my $2,300 donation. If we’re not good enough, then send my check back. It pisses me off.”

It’s true; the McCain gang just walked into this one. They never vetted aides, they never thought to check client lists, and then when confronted, they started purging lobbyists-turned-aides without thinking about the implications. Now, no one’s happy.

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