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Thursday, Sept. 25, 2008

Think You Know John McCain?

His “old boys’ network” is well connected

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On the campaign trail, Republican presidential nominee John McCain has been promising to take on the “old boys’ network,” first in Washington, and now on Wall Street.

But as Democratic nominee Barack Obama countered, that would be like calling a “staff meeting” of McCain’s campaign. Indeed.

McCain has surrounded himself with a network of Wall Street lobbyists, failed corporate executives and Bush/Cheney insiders who have been responsible for the problems that McCain has been denouncing on the stump.

At least 177 lobbyists are working for McCain’s campaign as policy advisers, aides or fund-raisers. A must-read Mother Jones investigation found that at least 83 of those lobbyists “in recent years lobbied for the financial industry McCain now attacks.”

Take Rick Davis, McCain’s campaign manager. The New York Times reported on Monday that Davis was paid $1.8 million over the course of five years to serve as president of an advocacy group set up by mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. His job? To provide access to McCain and defend the companies against stricter regulations. Perhaps those regulations would have saved Fannie and Freddie’s bacon; the federal government took over those companies last week to prevent them from cratering and causing mayhem in the rest of the economy.

Insurance giant AIG, which would have cratered but for the $85 billion bailout it received from American taxpayers last week, was an “over $50,000” donor to McCain’s “Reform Institute,” a nonprofit think tank. The Reform Institute also employed Rick Davis, to the tune of $395,000 a year, reports The Nation.

McCain’s 83 Wall Street lobbyists also include senior adviser Charlie Black, Mother Jones discovered. Black has lobbied for Fannie and Freddie, as well as J.P. Morgan, Washington Mutual Bank, Mortgage Bankers Association of America and the National Association of Mortgage Brokers. Think those entities wanted more regulation and government oversight?

But Black doesn’t just lobby for the financial industry. He’s the same McCain adviser who in June said that “a terrorist attack in the United States would be a political benefit to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.” He’s also represented Erik Prince, the head of Blackwater, as well as the late Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos.

And what about deregulation champion and former Sen. Phil Gramm, who created McCain’s economic policies? While he was shoved to the background after calling America a “nation of whiners,” Gramm may still be in consideration to be McCain’s Treasury secretary. Currently, Gramm’s an executive for the Swiss bank UBS, and UBS may be entitled to some of the American taxpayer-funded $700 billion bailout. Stay tuned.

Another adviser, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, received a $42 million severance pay and stock option package when she was fired—after 20,000 HP employees had been laid off. McCain, who has been decrying massive executive pay while on the stump, claimed that he didn’t know the details of Fiorina’s HP payout.

Bush/Cheney Insiders
In addition to the Wall Street lobbyists and corporate executives, “original maverick” McCain has hired Bush/Cheney insiders to work on his campaign. McCain’s domestic policy adviser is Douglas Holtz- Eakin, who was on Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers. Campaign chief Steve Schmidt headed communications for the 2004 Bush/Cheney campaign, and he then worked for Vice President Cheney.

But McCain isn’t the only candidate who is being tutored and managed by Bush operatives. Vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin—the self-described “maverick,” “reformer” and “outsider”—is virtually surrounded by them. One of her “closest aides,” according to The Washington Post, is Tucker Eskew, who ran Bush’s 2000 primary campaign in South Carolina, the one that smeared McCain with the falsehood that he’s the father of an out-of-wedlock black daughter. Palin is getting foreign policy briefings from Stephen Biegun, a former member of Bush’s National Security Council. Former Bush/Cheney campaign operatives are now in charge of Palin’s communications efforts and appearances.

And a former co-chief of the terrorism and national security unit of the U.S. Attorney’s New York office, Edward O’Callaghan, is now in charge of stonewalling the Troopergate investigation in Alaska. Both Palin and her husband, Todd, who received a subpoena in the case, have refused to cooperate with the bipartisan investigation.

What’s your take? Write : editor@shepex.com or comment on this story online at www.expressmilwaukee.com.
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