The Weird McCain-Dictator Connection


mccain_closeup_250x200.jpg When you have advisers who are interested in international conflict resolution, you get into one kind of trouble. When you have advisers who are lobbyists, you get into another.

John McCain has been forced to cut ties with two campaign staffers recently because of their ties to the military junta in Burma. The first, Doug Goodyear, was the man McCain had selected to run the 2008 Republican convention. Goodyear is the chief executive of DCI Group, a lobbying firm that was paid $348,000 in 2002 to improve the junta’s image in America and to push the federal government to improve relations with the notorious human rights abusers. The second, Doug Davenport, was a regional campaign manager for McCain who helped found DCI Group and served as head of its lobbying practice, where he also worked for the junta.

This is a great example of (1) why lobbying is so freaking toxic, and (2) how, if you build your campaign machinery with lobbyists in dozens of key positions, you run into problems.

But the problem isn’t just Dougs Goodyear and Davenport. The watchdog group Campaign Money Watch is now calling for three more McCain staffers to resign because of connections to distasteful foreign regimes:

Charlie Black, whose lobbying firm represented human rights abusers like Philipines President Ferdinand Marcos, Zaire dictator Mobuto Sese Seko, Somalia’s Mohamed Siad Barre and Nigeria’s Ibrahim Babangida, as well as foreign oil interests like the Chinese government’s CNOOC. Black currently serves McCain as a spokesman and senior counsel;

Tom Loeffler, whose firm has made more than $10 million since 2006 for lobbying for the Saudi Arabian monarchy and oil interests. Loeffler serves as McCain’s national finance chairman; and

Peter Madigan, a lobbyist whose firm received $800,000 to represent the United Arab Emirates in a class action suit over allegations that boys are enslaved and forced to be camel jockeys. He is also is a former lobbyist for Shell Oil. Madigan serves as a top fundraiser for McCain.

We’ve reported on Black, a true super-lobbyist, before. Campaign Money Watch also calls out McCain for his connections to oil and gas, which undercut his claims of good environmental stewardship.

The demand to fire the lobbyists comes as McCain gives a speech on environmental policy today. Oil and gas interests have donated $780,662 in campaign contributions to McCain’s candidate and leadership committees over his career, according to a Campaign Money Watch analysis of campaign finance data provided by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

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It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

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Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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