More controversial McCain campaign hires -- will the media continue to ignore?

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

As Media Matters for America documented, the media largely overlooked Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) hiring of Republican operative Terry Nelson as a senior adviser to his political action committee, despite Nelson's association with several prominent GOP scandals. In addition to Nelson, other members of McCain's political team have also been touched by controversy and have thus far not gained significant media attention.

Patrick Hynes

Political consultant and blogger Patrick Hynes was reportedly hired by Straight Talk America, McCain's political action committee, in May 2006. However, National Review Online blogger Jim Geraghty first reported on July 26 that Hynes' consulting firm, New Media Strategics, did not announce that it had been hired by Straight Talk America until July 24. In the intervening time, according to Geraghty, Hynes wrote several blog entries touting McCain's potential presidential candidacy, attacking former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), a possible McCain rival, and accusing other bloggers of having undisclosed financial ties to presidential candidates, without ever disclosing his own ties to McCain. According to Geraghty, Hynes wrote him an email acknowledging that he should have disclosed his ties to McCain:

You are right, Jim. I ought to have disclosed my relationship with Straight Talk America earlier. The reason I didn't do so is because I was not being paid 'to blog'. I have been a political consultant for fifteen years. That's what I was doing for Straight Talk America: providing political consulting.

Additionally, as Media Matters noted, McCain denounced the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth's baseless smears and attacks against 2004 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) as "dishonest and dishonorable." However, during the 2004 presidential race, Hynes was a strong proponent of the Swift Boat Veterans' campaign tactics. In an August 13, 2004, article for The American Spectator, Hynes declared Unfit for Command, by Swift Boat Vets John O'Neill and Jerome Corsi, the Spectator's "Book-of-the-Month," writing:

Unfit for Command by Vietnam veteran John O'Neill and Jerome Corsi, an expert on antiwar movements, shares none of those characteristics. It is a book unlike other campaign cycle books in that it injects new information into the public dialogue, avoids redundant circular arguments about issues, and, well, it has a point. That point is summed up with Thomistic bravado by John O'Neill in the book's first chapter: "I resolved that I would refute Kerry's lies."

The chapters in Unfit for Command are testimonies by swift boat captains and crew who knew current Democratic hopeful John Kerry personally. These men offer no insinuations. Their vignettes are not the paranoid ramblings of obese, low-budget filmmakers. The accusations are laid out in black-and-white for Sen. Kerry to read and respond to. That is, if anyone in the gaggle of reporters he travels with daily would bother to ask him about them.

[...]

THE SUBSEQUENT CHAPTERS contain the meat of the book. The authors present two broad categories of concern. The first are legitimate issues of debate, such as: Did John Kerry's anti-Vietnam War activities provide aid and comfort to the enemy? Reasonable people can disagree about these. But the second category -- his conduct during the war -- places Kerry on perilous ground. For if the swift boat operators are correct -- and it's vital to note John Kerry has never refuted these charges -- then John Kerry is a liar, an incompetent, a slanderer, and guilty of war crimes.

Media Matters found only scant reference to Hynes' relationship with McCain. Media critic Howard Kurtz noted Geraghty's reporting in his July 27 washingtonpost.com column, as did National Journal's The Hotline on July 27, The Washington Times on July 28, and the Kansas City Star on July 29. Since then, The Hotline has regularly referred to Hynes as a McCain "consultant" or "adviser."

Jill Hazelbaker

As the weblog MyDD and The Boston Globe's Primary Source blog noted on December 21, Jill Hazelbaker, communications director for New Jersey state Sen. Thomas Kean Jr.'s (R) failed 2006 U.S. Senate campaign, was recently hired as McCain's New Hampshire campaign communications director. MyDD noted that BlueJersey.com, a blog that supported Kean's opponent, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), had blamed Hazelbaker for "posting on liberal blogs and lying about it." According to a September 21 New York Times article:

The Internet postings came from people calling themselves "cleanupnj," "usedtobeblue" and "AmadeusNJ." They said they were concerned Democrats, "lifelong liberals," and they were troubled by the United States senator from New Jersey, Robert Menendez.

Mr. Menendez, they said, was up to no good. For instance, did you notice that a Congressional lawyer who Mr. Menendez said cleared him of ethics issues regarding a controversial real estate deal died last year? Wasn't there something fishy about that?

But the liberal Democratic hosts of BlueJersey.com, the Web log where such comments were posted, smelled something fishy about the postings, and said they traced them to a computer inside the campaign headquarters of Mr. Menendez's Republican opponent, Thomas H. Kean Jr.

They suspect the person behind the postings, which have appeared on the site regularly since July, is Mr. Kean's campaign spokeswoman, Jill Hazelbaker. Ms. Hazelbaker called the accusations "nonsense," and said neither she nor anyone else she knows of in the office had anything to do with the postings.

[...]

The Kean campaign's technical adviser said that the Internet protocol, or I.P., address that linked the posts to the Kean headquarters was an old one, "from over a month ago." But an e-mail message Ms. Hazelbaker sent to a reporter on Wednesday shares the same I.P. address.

An I.P. is an address, much like a telephone number, that in most cases is specific to an individual computer. But in this case, the Kean campaign registered a business account with Comcast, and it is likely that the entire office shares the same I.P. address -- so the postings could have come from any computer within the headquarters in Mountainside, N.J.

Posted In
Government, Ethics
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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