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February 21, 2008

An Ethics Flap That Isn't

To borrow from the Bard -- much ado about nothing.

Early in Senator John McCain’s first run for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his small circle of advisers.

A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.

When news organizations reported that Mr. McCain had written letters to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist’s client, the former campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that attention would fall on her involvement.

Mr. McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both say they never had a romantic relationship. But to his advisers, even the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity.

Interestingly enough, the story goes on like this for a couple of pages, but every single anecdote lacks one thing -- an actual act of wrong-doing on John McCain's part. The biggest question that arises anywhere in the article relates to one plane trip, and a dispute between different lawyers over whether and hoe it should have been reported on ethics forms. Pretty small potatoes, when you consider all the ink spilled on this story.

And there is, of course, the sexist double standard at work in this article, too. If the lobbyist friend had been male, would the NY Times have felt it necessary to invoke the issue of an extra-marital sexual affair when there was no evidence of one presented anywhere in the article? Doesn't hinting that female lobbyists give sexual favors to advance the interests of their clients while not making the same sort of claims about male lobbyists constitute an egregious attack upon the equality of women?

The biggest bit of evidence that there is nothing substantive to this story was published four weeks ago -- the endorsement of John McCain by the New York Times. This story has clearly been in the works for some time (indeed, dating back to at least December), and if there had been evidence of substantive wrong-doing by the Arizona Senator the endorsement would not have happened.

The Washington Post gives an interesting statistic at the end of its article that would appear damning to anyone who was too lazy to do the math.

Iseman and her firm, which includes high-profile Republicans and Democrats, have also represented a number of other companies that have had issues before McCain and the commerce committee, including Univision, a Spanish-language television network. Iseman clients have given nearly $85,000 to McCain campaigns since 2000, according to records at the Federal Election Commission.

Let's see -- depending upon how you count that, we would be talking about seven or eight calendar years worth of donations. Assuming that this sloppily constructed sentence means that the Post is only counting donations from the years 2001 through 2007 (it is a bit early to know about 2008 donations) we are talking about an average of $12,000 in donations a year from all clients of Vicki Iseman. That is peanuts when one considers her client list, constituting very small donations from the companies she represents. If anything, it would tend to show that everything is on the up and up in terms of the campaign finance end of things, and that John McCain hasn't been bought and paid for by Iseman's clients.

Now some may want to make an issue of the complaints by John McCain to NY Times editor Bill Keller and this statement attacking the paper.

U.S. Senator John McCain's presidential campaign today issued the following statement by Communications Director Jill Hazelbaker:

"It is a shame that the New York Times has lowered its standards to engage in a hit and run smear campaign. John McCain has a 24-year record of serving our country with honor and integrity. He has never violated the public trust, never done favors for special interests or lobbyists, and he will not allow a smear campaign to distract from the issues at stake in this election.

"Americans are sick and tired of this kind of gutter politics, and there is nothing in this story to suggest that John McCain has ever violated the principles that have guided his career."

However, I ask those who argue (as one local blogger did) that McCain's objections to the story are proof of its truth a simple question -- if defending yourself from an accusation that you believe to be untrue and unfair constitutes proof of guilt, would you really consider silence in the face of such charges to be evidence of innocence? Or do you really care about the accuracy of the charges at all?

More At Captains Quarters, Michelle Malkin, Hot Air, Don Surber





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