Saturday, February 23, 2008

Tarnished halo?

From The Washington Post:

Broadcaster Lowell "Bud" Paxson yesterday contradicted statements from Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign that the senator did not meet with Paxson or his lobbyist before sending two controversial letters to the Federal Communications Commission on Paxson's behalf.

Paxson said he talked with McCain in his Washington office several weeks before the Arizona Republican wrote the letters in 1999 to the FCC urging a rapid decision on Paxson's quest to acquire a Pittsburgh television station.

Paxson also recalled that his lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, likely attended the meeting in McCain's office and that Iseman helped arrange the meeting. "Was Vicki there? Probably," Paxson said in an interview with The Washington Post yesterday. "The woman was a professional. She was good. She could get us meetings."

The recollection of the now-retired Paxson conflicted with the account provided by the McCain campaign about the two letters at the center of a controversy about the senator's ties to Iseman, a partner at the lobbying firm of Alcalde & Fay.

The McCain campaign said Thursday that the senator had not met with Paxson or Iseman on the matter. "No representative of Paxson or Alcalde and Fay personally asked Senator McCain to send a letter to the FCC regarding this proceeding," the campaign said in a statement.

But Paxson said yesterday, "I remember going there to meet with him." He recalled that he told McCain: "You're head of the Commerce Committee. The FCC is not doing its job. I would love for you to write a letter."

McCain attorney Robert S. Bennett played down the contradiction between the campaign's written answer and Paxson's recollection.

"We understood that he [McCain] did not speak directly with him [Paxson]. Now it appears he did speak to him. What is the difference?" Bennett said. "McCain has never denied that Paxson asked for assistance from his office. It doesn't seem relevant whether the request got to him through Paxson or the staff. His letters to the FCC concerning the matter urged the commission to make up its mind. He did not ask the FCC to approve or deny the application. It's not that big a deal."

The Paxson deal, coming as McCain made his first run for the presidency, has posed a persistent problem for the senator. The deal raised embarrassing questions about his dealings with lobbyists at a time when he had assumed the role of an ethics champion and opponent of the influence of lobbyists.

The two letters he wrote to the FCC in 1999 while he was chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee produced a rash of criticism and a written rebuke from the then-FCC chairman, who called McCain's intervention "highly unusual." McCain had repeatedly used Paxson's corporate jet for his campaign and accepted campaign contributions from the broadcaster and his law firm.

This wouldn't be such a big deal of McCain wasn't always so on with how clean and pure as the wind driven snow he is. But that is what McCain bases his appeal to the voters on and like Hillary whose "35 years of experience" turn out to be smoke and mirrors when examined closely McCain's integrity is largely an illusion.

When a Senator writes a letter to a government agency, whose budget congress controls, on behalf of a contributor asking them to hurry up and make a decision he doesn't have to specify that he wants the decision to be made in favor of the person who gives him money and free rides on his corporate jet. That part is implied and if McCain didn't know that then he is too stupid to hold public office.

And when you get down to it what was so wrong about what McCain did? What is the moral difference between a Senator twisting the arm of the Social Security Administration to get some old lady her check so that she and her friends will vote for him and and donate money to his campaign and that same Senator twisting the arm of the FCC to get out of a businessman's way and let him get on with business so that the businessman will donate money?

The answer is that there is no real difference. It is just a matter of scale. The fact is that lobbyists and "special interest groups" simply represent people. The NRA represents not only its 4 million members but the 100 million or so gun owners in this country, even the ones who are too stupid to realize that they need representation. The domestic auto makers lobbyists represent not only the fat-cat CEO's and board members of the Big Three, but all the people who work in the auto industry and all the millions of people whose insurance and pension funds are invested in the car companies.

Paxson was only seeking to grow his business and provide profits for his investors and jobs for his employees. The FCC, an agency which has been overtaken by technological advances and no longer serves any useful purpose - if it ever did serve one, was standing in his way and he exercised his First Amendment right to petition his government for a redress of grievances and the only reason that this can be seen as any kind of problem is because of the phony-baloney "rectitude" of sanctimonious pricks like John McCain.

Which is why I have no sympathy for him. Rather I take great amusement in seeing him once again hoist on his own petard.