David Corn

David Corn

Washington Bureau Chief

Corn has broken stories on presidents, politicians, and other Washington players. He's written for numerous publications and is a talk show regular. His best-selling books include Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War.

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Two NRA Lobbyists Violating the McCain Campaign's Conflict Rules?

| Thu Sep. 25, 2008 9:27 AM EDT

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Have two lobbyists who work for John McCain's campaign—one as national finance co-chairman, the other as co-chairman of the campaign's Sportsmen for McCain committee—violated the campaign's conflict of interest policy?

In May, when the campaign was being hit by one news story after another about lobbyists working on its staff, campaign manager Rick Davis (who is now on leave from his own influential lobbying firm, Davis Manafort, and under fire for his past connections to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae) issued conflict rules that banned any active lobbyist or foreign agent from being a paid employee of the campaign. Lobbyists and foreign agents, though, could work for the campaign as part-time volunteers, as long as they did not participate in policy-making regarding the matters on which they lobby. Another provision declared that "no person with a McCain Campaign title or position may participate in a 527 [campaign committee] or other independent entity that makes public communications that support or oppose any presidential candidate."

That rule that may cause trouble for the campaign and two of its prominent supporters, Wayne Berman and James Jay Baker, who are lobbyists for the National Rifle Association, for the NRA recently began airing harsh attack-ads against Barack Obama.

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A Democratic Pushback on the $700 Billion Bailout?

| Tue Sep. 23, 2008 1:20 PM EDT

A Democratic pushback to the $700 billion Wall Street bailout plan proposed by the Bush administration is underway. At a Senate banking committee hearing on Monday morning, Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat and self-described "dirt farmer" from Montana, asked Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke why members of Congress only had one week to determine whether to spend $700 billion or watch the financial system "go down the pipes?" In other words, why the rush? Bernanke said the bailout was necessary to prevent a shutdown in credit that would lead to more unemployment, more foreclosures, and an economic contraction. "Lenders have to be able to lend," Paulson remarked.

But there are a lot of details in the plan to review and consider. And while the hearing was going on, over on the House side, a group of progressive- and populist-minded Democrats were trying to start a quasi-rebellion. On Monday afternoon, Representative Brad Sherman of California, who serves on the financial services committee, convened a meeting with eight other Democrats, and the group on Tuesday morning released a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi questioning whether the Paulson plan has to be approved by week's end and demanding at least eleven major changes in the proposal.

Here's that letter:

In Dealing with the $700 Billion Bailout, Dems Ought To Point Fingers

| Tue Sep. 23, 2008 12:24 PM EDT

I am often reluctant to give advice to members of Congress. But in this case, it was hard to resist. Here's a posting initially put up elsewhere....

In reaction to the financial crisis, here's what the Democrats who control Congress ought to do:

1. Work vigorously on the bailout proposal submitted by Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson but add the populist provisions that Robert Reich and others are suggesting.

2. Point fingers.

Assigning blame ought to be a key component of the Democratic response to the current meltdown. And that ought not be hard to do. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Harry Reid could set up a joint select committee to investigate the causes of the financial crisis. This committee then could start holding hearings immediately and haul before it the heads of the companies that have screwed up and imperiled the economy. This will not be a short list. Call in top officials from Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, AIG, Bear Stearns, Countrywide Financial, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac. Demand explanations from them. Explore how much money they pocketed personally while overseeing their institutions.

That's just a start. The committee should bring in experts who can explain (clearly!) how these players and others abused credit default swaps, subprime loans, mortgage-backed securities, and other hanky-panky financial products.

Top Alaskan GOPer Decries McCain Camp's Interference in Palin-Troopergate Probe

| Mon Sep. 22, 2008 4:25 PM EDT

Republican State Senator Lyda Green, the president of the Alaska Senate, has been no fan of Governor Sarah Palin. After John McCain tapped Palin to be his running mate, Green told the Anchorage Daily News, "She's not prepared to be governor. How can she be prepared to be vice president or president? Look at what she's done to this state. What would she do to the nation?"

For two years, Green feuded with Palin over key policy matters. But in recent days, Green has become even more dismayed with the Palin pick, for she believes the McCain-Palin campaign has undermined the rule of law in the Last Frontier. She says she has watched with outrage as McCain-Palin operatives have flown into her state and interfered with the so-called Troopergate investigation--the official, approved-by-the-legislature inquiry into whether Palin dismissed her public safety commissioner because he refused to fire her ex-brother-in-law, a state trooper who went through a messy divorce with Palin's sister.

Calling herself a "raging Republican," Green says, she is "absolutely disgusted, embarrassed, and ashamed" by the McCain-Palin campaign's intervention in the Troopergate probe. Over a week ago, McCain campaign aides began handling the investigation for Palin. The campaign dispatched Edward O'Callaghan, who recently had been a terrorism prosecutor in the Justice Department, to Alaska to oversee Palin's legal strategy. O'Callaghan then declared she would not cooperate with the inquiry. (Before becoming the GOP vice presidential nominee, Palin had repeatedly vowed to cooperate. At one point, she said, "I'm happy to comply, to cooperate. I have absolutely nothing to hide.") And last Thursday, O'Callaghan announced that Palin's husband, Todd, would not heed a subpoena to appear before a state legislative committee to testify about his role in Troopergate.

McCain's New Target: The New York Times

| Mon Sep. 22, 2008 1:00 PM EDT

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On a conference call with reporters on Monday morning, Rick Davis, John McCain's campaign manager, and Steve Schmidt, a top McCain strategist, were asked about a New York Times article reporting that Davis had been paid nearly $2 million for running a Washington outfit set up by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to stop stricter regulation of these two entities. Davis said he had never engaged in any lobbying for that group and downplayed Fannie and Freddie's role in the organization. He joked that he appreciated "all the exposure I get" in The New York Times. He added that the newspaper must have "Davis envy."

Schmidt then went bad-cop. "We're First Amendment absolutists," he said, noting journalists are free to "write whatever they want to write." But, he continued, "whatever the New York Times once was," it is no longer a journalistic entity. Schmidt called it a "pro-Obama advocacy organization" and claimed the paper "attacks" McCain every day. Schmidt went on: the Times is "an organization completely, totally 150-percent in the tank for the Democratic candidate" and has "cast aside its journalistic integrity and tradition" to get McCain.

It was a blistering slam. And several times throughout the call, Schmidt chided the media for treating Obama more kindly than McCain. (In recent weeks, many news outlets have scored McCain's ads as being full of falsehoods.) Clearly, the candidate who once was beloved by the national media (and who joked the press was his base) has calculated that the old Republican play of bashing the media, especially The New York Times, will help him get elected. Also, Schmidt might also have been trying to establish a context for judging any future Times investigations that might pose a problem for McCain. ("See? I told you they were out to destroy Senator McCain.")

By the way, neither Davis nor Schmidt pointed out one error in the Times' story about Davis.

Photo by flickr user Joe Shlabotnik used under a Creative Commons license.

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