In July, AT&T followed suit, wheeling in a portable tower for free to match Verizon's offer. "This is an unusual situation," AT&T spokeswoman Claudia B. Jones said. "You can't have a presidential nominee in an area where there is not cell coverage."
Ethics lawyers said Cindy McCain's dealings with the wireless companies stand out because her husband, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), is a senior member of the Senate commerce committee, which oversees the Federal Communications Commission and the telecommunications industry. He has been a leading advocate for industry-backed legislation, fighting regulations and taxes on telecommunication services.
You catch that? FIGHTING REGULATIONS AND TAXES ON TELCOMS.
McCain and his campaign have close ties to Verizon and AT&T. Five campaign officials, including manager Rick Davis, have worked as lobbyists for Verizon. Former McCain staff member Robert Fisher is an in-house lobbyist for Verizon and is volunteering for the campaign. Fisher, Verizon chief executive Ivan G. Seidenberg and company lobbyists have raised more than $1.3 million for McCain's presidential effort, and Verizon employees are among the top 20 corporate donors over McCain's political career, giving his campaigns more than $155,000.
So what's a little freebie cell phone tower service among pals?
McCain's Senate chief of staff Mark Buse, senior strategist Charles R. Black Jr. and several other campaign staff members have registered as AT&T lobbyists in the past. AT&T Executive Vice President Timothy McKone and AT&T lobbyists have raised more than $2.3 million for McCain. AT&T employees have donated more than $325,000 to the Republican's campaigns, putting the company in the No. 3 spot for career donations to McCain, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
No lobbyists working for John McCain's campaign. Oh... Wait.
"It raises the aura of special consideration for somebody because he is a member of the Senate," said Stanley Brand, a former House counsel for Democrats and an ethics lawyer who represents politicians in both parties.
Obama's Lawyer frim the Trail
Verizon spokesman Jeffrey Nelson attacked The Post's story as "wrong," saying, "Verizon received a request from Mrs. McCain, but declined. Subsequent to that, the Secret Service made a legitimate request for a temporary tower for its work and Verizon complied as is required by our contract with the agency."
However, interviews and public records filed in the development services offices of Yavapai County, Ariz., reveal a different timeline. Getting cell coverage was the culmination of an effort begun in early 2007 by Cindy McCain, when her staff first requested coverage through Verizon's Web site, according to the McCain campaign. After discussing the matter with the company, Mrs. McCain offered land for a permanent cell tower. She gave Verizon authorization to act on her behalf to seek permits from the county. Verizon hired contractors to draw up the plans and Cindy McCain signed a contract in May.
After a regulatory hurdle delayed installation of the permanent tower, Verizon received e-mails from the Secret Service asking about coverage in the area and asking for the process to be rushed. Verizon's contractor then petitioned for a cell site on wheels. It was installed in June. Two months later, Verizon abandoned its effort to install a permanent tower because it would be "an inappropriate way" to build its network, Nelson said. "It doesn't make business sense for us to do that."
AT&T's Cicconi noted in his statement that portable towers were also provided to the Democratic National Convention site where Sen. Barack Obama gave his nomination acceptance speech. "In Denver, when the venue of the Democratic nomination acceptance speech was moved to Invesco Field, we rapidly enhanced our wireless coverage in that area by using temporary cell towers."
But telecommunications experts told the Post that installing portable towers for major events with thousands of people is a money-maker for wireless companies because thousands of people using phones and handheld devices bring in a lot of income using billable minutes. The number of users on the McCain property would be much smaller, they said, even if campaign staff were on the property.
More-why Verizon's phoney baloney excuse doesn't hold water.
Today, a Verizon spokesman, Jeffrey Nelson, took greater umbrage, attacking the Post story as “wrong” and stating that the company, after studying McCain’s request, decided in August not to install a permanent tower at the ranch. “It doesn’t make business sense for us to do that,” Nelson told the Post.
So is this an innocent mix-up, or did McCain get special treatment from Verizon? The Post piece points out that Verizon’s CEO Ivan G. Seidenberg is a McCain bundler who has raised more than $1.3 million, and the company’s head Washington lobbyist, Robert Fisher, is a former McCain staffer. That alone is intriguing, but not, of course, evidence of any wrongdoing. But putting up a cell phone tower is a process that entails many legal and regulatory hurdles that create a lengthy public record (some of which Grimaldi draws on for his piece). And the closer you look, the less satisfying McCain’s—and especially Verizon’s—account of the towers turns out to be. Whatever its motivation, Verizon plainly went to considerable effort and expense to pursue building a permanent tower on the McCains’ ranch.