Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

McCain and the aircraft lobby

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Matthew Blake has a very good article in the Washington Independent. You really should read the entire thing. From that article:

… It raises questions about whether Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the Republican presidential nominee, is the crusader against Washington corruption that he claims to be.

In 2001, the Air Force handed the tanker contract to Boeing, the largest aircraft manufacturer in the world. But in 2005, the Air Force terminated the deal after McCain led a three-year investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee that unearthed potentially illegal conduct by Air Force and Boeing officials. At the time, the media hailed McCain as a heroic, lonely crusader who had saved taxpayers millions of dollars.

But there may have been another side to McCain’s investigation — one that may undercut a central premise of his presidential campaign: that he will be a reformer as president.

Here’s the issue. The Associated Press revealed in March that five registered lobbyists for EADS were working for McCain’s presidential campaign, including Tom Loeffler, who served as the campaign’s co-chairman. Also, in 2006, McCain wrote two strongly worded, and likely influential, letters to the Pentagon, arguing that EADS acceptance of European Union subsidies should not be factored into who gets the tanker contract.

A top McCain Senate aide, Chris Paul, has said the Arizona senator wrote the letters without lobbyist’s help and that they reflect his interest in “full and open competition.”

But McCain’s presidential campaign rarely details the Boeing investigation as evidence of his reformer bona fides. Instead, it has been mostly Democrats, with Boeing employees as constituents, who bring up the case. They highlight a different side of McCain — his campaign’s continued ties to current and former lobbyists.

The McCain-spearheaded investigation, which began in 2002, discovered that Darleen A. Druyan, then the No. 2 weapons buyer for the Air Force, had awarded Boeing a $23-billion contract to lease rather than buy 100 aerial tankers — though purchasing the aircraft would have been far cheaper.

Druyan’s reason: She was grateful that Boeing had given her daughter and her boyfriend jobs. Boeing had also promised Druyan a job. In 2005, the Air Force ended the contract. That year Druyan, along with former Boeing Chief Financial Officer Michael Sears, were sentenced to prison.

At the time, McCain’s investigation mostly got rave reviews in the media and from taxpayer watchdog groups. “It’s the best example of congressional oversight that we’ve seen in a decade,” said Keith Ashdown, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense. “It was before the completely bone-headed decision to bring on all those EADS lobbyists.”

EADS Lobbyists and the McCain Campaign

Chief among the EADS lobbyists was former Texas Rep. Tom Loeffler. “Loeffler has been at the intersection of special-interest money and politics for decades,” said Andrew Wheat, research director at Texans for Public Justice, a non-partisan, nonprofit policy and research organization.

Loeffler, who was finance co-chairman for George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign, joined McCain’s campaign in February 2006, before McCain officially announced his candidacy. “If needed,” Loeffler said at the time, “I’ll wash bottles and change tires on the Straight Talk America van.”

McCain’s cash-strapped campaign become dependent on Loeffler, who assumed a central role as fund-raiser. In 2007, the Loeffler Group earned $220,000 lobbying for EADS. Loeffler resigned in May, when McCain purged his staff of registered lobbyists to signal that his campaign does not have conflicts of interests

While Loeffler has formally left McCain’s presidential campaign, Loeffler Group lobbyist William Ball, a former Navy secretary, remains an unpaid McCain adviser.

Meanwhile, Susan Loeffler has stayed as the campaign’s co-finance chairman and recently left her position at the Loeffler Group. The Loeffler Group said it was their policy not to talk with the press.

The other two EADS lobbyists formerly associated with McCain’s presidential campaign are Kirk Blalock, a lobbyist at Fierce, Iskowitz and Blalock and the president of Young Professionals for John McCain, and Wayne Berman, who works for Oglivy Government Relations.

Blalock, who has bundled more than $250,000 for MCain’s presidential bid, did not return calls for comment. The Arizona Republic reported that he has stayed on the campaign as an unpaid fund-raiser. A spokesman for Berman said that he no longer holds his former campaign title of deputy finance chairman, and is instead an unpaid adviser and fund-raiser.

Loeffler and the other EADS lobbyists joined McCain’s presidential campaign soon after the Arizona senator, in his capacity as chairman of the Airland Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, asked the Pentagon to rewrite its bidding requirements for the aerial tanker program. In September 2006, the Pentagon’s request for a contract proposal was still in draft stage. But it appeared the Air Force would take into consideration a suit filed by the U.S. in the WTO court that sought to end the European Union’s policy of giving no interest loans to EADS. …

Written by Leisureguy

10 September 2008 at 11:01 am

Posted in Business, Election, GOP, Military

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