McCain-lobbyist story roils campaign

Today's New York Times' story on John McCain and a lobbyist is the hot issue du jour.

Romenesko has a great roundup of the reaction. Here's some of it:


John McCain’s campaign promised to “go to war” against the New York Times Wednesday night after the newspaper posted its long-awaited story on McCain's alleged relationship with a telecom lobbyist. Both McCain and the woman in question denied having a romantic relationship.

The story, word of which first leaked to the Drudge Report in December, relies on anonymous sources tied to McCain who said the lobbyist was warned to keep her distance to the senator in the run-up to his first presidential bid.

In the piece, McCain is quoted as telling Times Editor Bill Keller that he never did anything unethical. Top McCain advisers, including his former Senate chief of staff Mark Salter, also say on the record that there was nothing inappropriate done legislatively.

McCain told reporters Wednesday night when asked about the story: "I haven't seen it yet, so I can't comment."


This afternoon, before the Times story came out, I was working on a post about national political reporters' tendency not to give much of any scrutiny to various McCain flipflops, contradictions and bamboozlements. Obviously, the terrain has changed a bit since I started writing that one (I'd hoped to finish it up this evening; either tonight or tomorrow early).

This is an odd story for a couple reasons. We know that the McCain Camp went to the mattresses to get this story spiked back in December. And some heavy legal muscle was apparently brought to bear. When a story has to go through that much lawyering it often comes out pretty stilted and with some obvious lacunae. And this one definitely qualifies. Reading the Times piece it struck me as a bit of a jumble. The reference to a possible affair is there in the lede. But then most of the piece is a rehash of a lot of older material about McCain's record before getting back to the relationship with Iseman.

Huff Post:

In the wake of revelations that Sen. John McCain had a close and perhaps romantic relationship with a telecommunications lobbyist, political observers are left wondering why The New York Times chose to run the article when it did. Meanwhile, conservatives are contemplating how different the election would be had the story been published sooner.

In the aftermath of the Times story, some subtle but important information has come unearthed showing how McCain's relationship with 40-year-old Vicki Iseman, a partner with the firm Alcalde & Fay, became public.

Bob Bennett, a powerful D.C. attorney and lawyer for McCain, acknowledged the extent of his fervent efforts to kill the story for the first time during an interview on Fox News.

"I did have several conversations and one meeting with the New York Times reporters and repeatedly provided them answers to their questions," he said Thursday evening. "And I was satisfied that there was nothing here. But no, I worked very hard at it."

As Bennett notes, news that the Times had an article on McCain's relationship with Iseman was known months ago, albeit with only slight hints of the romantic angle.

In December, the Drudge Report wrote that McCain was waging a "ferocious behind the scenes battle with the Times... against charges of giving special treatment to a lobbyist."

Soon after, the Washington Post's media reporter Howard Kurtz penned an item in which McCain was quoted as saying he had "never done any favors for anybody -- lobbyist or special interest group." Allegations otherwise, he added, were "gutter politics."

Other journalists believed to be on the story included, according to Radar Magazine's Charles Kaiser, Michael Isikoff of Newsweek and Michael Calderone of Politico.

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