Thursday, May 22, 2008

Joe Conason: McCain's Team of Lobbyists

Disturbed by troubling connections and unflattering publicity, John McCain has just purged several prominent Washington lobbyists from his presidential campaign. Surely his intentions are laudable, but if Sen. McCain is consistent in ridding his campaign of such compromised people, he will find himself riding lonesome on the Straight Talk Express. That's because nearly all of his advisers, fundraisers and top staffers have worked on K Street, starting with his campaign manager, Rick Davis, and his senior adviser and spokesman, Charles Black.

From the beginning, the McCain team has been thoroughly infested with representatives of corporate special interests, from the campaign's national co-chairs, finance chairs, policy and political directors, and deputies of all descriptions down to the chairman of Young Professionals for McCain, who just happens to lobby for Airbus, the European aviation firm that benefited from the Arizona senator's long inquest against Boeing.

Perhaps the senator hasn't been paying attention for the past few decades, for he somehow seems to have surrounded himself with exactly the kind of Washington hustlers he professes to despise. How this happened is a question that Sen. McCain must answer for himself. What must be truly impressive to anyone glancing over the resumes of Davis and Black, as well as the lesser members of the McCain entourage, is their magnetic attraction for the most questionable clients in the world.

Consider Charlie Black, a longtime Republican operative, whose lobbying activities first drew negative attention during the Reagan administration, when he represented such august figures as Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire and Angolan rebel Jonas Savimbi. Marcos and Mobutu were infamous despots with a penchant for looting their own nations' economies, as well as any American aid that came their way (presumably as a result of Black's assistance). The theft of funds from taxpayers by those two crooks eventually mounted into the billions, and they savagely repressed democratic forces with U.S. arms. As for Savimbi, he was merely an authoritarian thug, a Maoist ideologue and, according to some reports, a sometime cannibal.

We safely can assume that Black never returned any of the stolen blood money that paid for his services. Recently, he has suggested that U.S. government support for those dictatorial regimes somehow justified his profiteering, as if he weren't involved in shoring up that support......

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