19 May 2008 at 3:48:47 PM
Mr. Straight Talk Express looks pretty weak right now.
Former Rep. Thomas G. Loeffler, a Texan who is among the McCain campaign’s most important advisers and fundraisers, has resigned as a national co-chair over lobbying entanglements, a Republican source told Politico on Sunday.
It’s at least the fifth lobbying-related departure from the campaign in a week.
The McCain campaign, already facing the prospect of being badly outgunned in the general election, now also must cope with the disruption of the lobbying shakeout.
Here's some more from Sunlight Foundation.
On April 15, my colleague Anu--who's been digging into foreign agent lobbyist disclosures--posted a piece noting an oddity about the lobbying firm founded by Thomas Loeffler, a national co-chairman of the McCain campaign. The Loeffler Group had been paid more than $15 million by the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia since 2003 and had had on average about 10 lobbying contacts a month (that is, meetings, phone calls, lunches, etc.) with members of Congress, their staff, and executive branch officials. After March 26, 2007, the firm stopped lobbying government officials on behalf of the Saudis. Yet the Loeffler Group continued to be paid a retainer--some $990,000 in the last six months--despite not doing very much on behalf of their client.
According to the November 2007, disclosure forms signed by Tom Loeffler, the firm “provided services related to interaction between foreign principal and Members of Congress, congressional staff, officials in the Executive Branch and the World Trade Organization.” Although it is possible that there were no reportable contacts during the time, the forms do not explicitly say so.
By contrast, disclosure forms filed in 2006 by the Loeffler Group in May and November detail meetings with members of Congress, including one with McCain on May 17, 2006. The filings also show that in 2006, Tom Loeffler had facilitated meetings between then Saudi Ambassador Price Turki Al-Faisal and Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., to discuss “U.S.-Saudi relations.” The November 2006, disclosure shows that meetings were convened between Tom Loeffler and Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, in June.
The Loeffler Group has received close to $15 million since 2003 when they began to lobby for the Saudi government. In 2006, the year after Saudi Arabia entered the WTO group of countries, the Loeffler Group received more than $7million from the Saudis in lobbying fees, FARA documents show.The firm declined to comment on any of their lobbying disclosure filings.
In addition to the Saudis, the Loeffler Group’s other foreign clients include the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, a government agency that hired the firm to lobby on trade issues including international trade policy, U.S.-China trade relationship and the WTO.
Loeffler, who represented Texas as a member of the House of Representatives from 1978 to 1986, serves as the general co-chair of McCain’s campaign. Susan Nelson, another Loeffler Group employee who also lobbied on behalf of Saudi government, later left the firm to take up a position with McCain as campaign finance director.
Well, he DID. Until this weekend. Seems that John McCain didn't have any problem with him lobbying for the Saudis AND being on his campaign UNTIL the dirt came out in the news.
And from the New York Sun
Earlier this month, the CEO of the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, Douglas Goodyear, and a regional campaign manager for Mr. McCain, Douglas Davenport, resigned over work they did in 2002 for the military junta that rules Myanmar, more commonly known as Burma.
However, the Sun reported that other campaign aides with more recent ties to regimes accused of serious human rights violations were still working for Mr. McCain. Among them was Mr. Loeffler, whose lobbying firm, Loeffler Group, has collected nearly $15 million from Saudi Arabia since 2002.
Newsweek and other news outlets described Mr. Loeffler, who was a congressman of Texas between 1979 and 1987, as a co-chairman of Mr. McCain’s national finance committee. However, that description understates the role played by the Washington power broker. In March 2007, Mr. McCain’s campaign announced that Mr. Loeffler was being elevated to the post of general co-chairman and would “be closely involved in the daily workings of the campaign, and assist with fundraising, strategy, and message development.”
Last week, an aide to Mr. McCain acknowledged that Mr. Loeffler was working full-time on the campaign, though he did not draw a salary.
Mr. Loeffler did not respond to an e-mail message seeking comment for this article, but last month he denied lobbying the senator of Arizona. “At no time have I discussed my clients with John McCain, and there have been many occasions where he has voted against my clients’ interests,” Mr. Loeffler told the Washington Times.
In fact, lobbying disclosures filed by Mr. Loeffler’s firm show he escorted the Saudi ambassador to America, Prince Turki, to a meeting with Mr. McCain in May 2006 to discuss “U.S.-Kingdom of Saudi Arabia relations.” The meeting was first noted earlier this year by ABC News and the Center for Investigative Reporting.
The bigger problem for Mr. Loeffler may not have been the work he did for the Saudis, but the work he didn’t do. Between June and November 2007, his firm was paid nearly $1 million by the Saudis, but reported no meetings with lawmakers, American officials, or anyone else. “It seems like an awful lot of money to be paid for twiddling your thumbs,” William Allison of the Sunlight Foundation, which first noted the discrepancy last month, said. “It almost looked like an investment in a potential McCain presidency.”
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