It's so clear the McCain campaign -- or maybe it's even McCain himself -- hates the idea of ceding the reform issue to Obama, hence the strict lobbyist ban. But has McCain painted himself in a corner? Will Charlie Black and Rick Davis, in particular, find themselves constantly having to be on the defensive because of this? Again, this is self-inflicted, yet noble.
The New York Times notes McCain is finding a "thorny path" on this issue. "McCain's political identity has long been defined by his calls for reducing the influence of special interests in Washington. But as he heads toward the general election as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, he has increasingly confronted criticism that his campaign staff is stocked with people who have made their living as lobbyists or in similar jobs, leaving his credentials as a reformer open to attack. The process of trying to purge the campaign of conflicts that in appearance or reality might violate Mr. McCain's stated principles or cause him political trouble has so far focused only more attention on the backgrounds of his aides and advisers."
"The delicate task of writing and enforcing the new conflict-of-interest policy has fallen to Mr. McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, who was himself a lobbyist until he took a leave of absence from his firm, Davis Manafort, two years ago."
The paper also notes a slew of potential senior staffers who may have conflicts. "Wayne Berman, the campaign's deputy finance chairman, has lobbied for the governments of Cyprus and Trinidad and Tobago, along with many other corporate clients. Christian Ferry, who is a lobbyist for Mr. Davis's firm, is Mr. McCain's deputy campaign manager. Susan Nelson, the finance director of the campaign, was as recently as last year a registered lobbyist for the Loeffler Group, for companies, including AT&T that have had business before Mr. McCain on the Commerce Committee. John Green, who has been reported to be coordinating the campaign's efforts with congressional Republicans, is registered as a lobbyist for Ogilvy Government Relations, Mr. Berman's firm. Carlos Bonilla, described by the McCain Web site as an economic adviser, is also a registered lobbyist."
Obama jumped on the lobbyist issue yesterday. "During a speech at a high school here, Obama said voters should be concerned that 'after nearly three decades in Washington, John McCain can't see or won't acknowledge what's obvious to all of us here today -- that lobbyists aren't just part of the system in Washington, they're part of the problem.'"
"McCain's campaign shot back quickly, challenging Obama to "shed light on the long list of federal lobbyists advising him on policy issues' and accusing him of diverting attention from more serious matters. 'Every moment that Senator Obama spends attacking individual volunteers on our campaign is time he's not using to address issues of real importance in the lives of Americans,' said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds."
And as we predicted yesterday, the blind quotes are telling. Check this out: "Some of McCain's advisers said Monday they are mystified by the new policy, which they said gives Obama an opening to attack their candidate. 'The most interesting thing in every campaign is the self-inflicted wound. This is a great case,' said one GOP fundraiser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss McCain's campaign decisions candidly. 'When asked to name the 10,000 things people think are the most important issue, this doesn't make the list.'"
"Another adviser said: 'There's scratching of heads. What is going on? Why are we doing this?'"
The Boston Globe: "While Democrats have fueled the turmoil, it's partly of McCain's making. He has tried to straddle two worlds, being both a four-term senator known as a fighter of special interests and a candidate whose campaign has employed people with long records of lobbying."