AP failed to note McCain's reversal on immigration, rapprochement with religious right, lobbyists in his campaign

››› ››› ANDREW WALZER

The Associated Press reported that Sen. John McCain's "support for an eventual path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants angered conservative Republicans" and that "[m]any GOP conservatives still don't trust him, citing his positions on issues such as immigration, campaign finance and global warming, as well as his feud with the religious right." But the AP did not note that McCain now says "we've got to secure the borders first" -- a position at odds with his prior assertion that border security could not be disaggregated from other aspects of comprehensive immigration reform without being rendered ineffective -- and recently said he would not vote for the very legislation on which he worked if it came to a vote in the Senate.

In a March 5 article, Associated Press writer Nancy Benac reported that Sen. John McCain's "support for an eventual path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants angered conservative Republicans" and that "[m]any GOP conservatives still don't trust him, citing his positions on issues such as immigration, campaign finance and global warming, as well as his feud with the religious right." But Benac did not note that McCain has reversed his position on a key component of the immigration debate to more closely align himself with the base of the Republican Party and made overtures to resolve "his feud with the religious right." As Media Matters for America has noted, McCain now says that "we've got to secure the borders first" -- a position at odds with his prior assertion that border security could not be disaggregated from other aspects of comprehensive immigration reform without being rendered ineffective. Further, during CNN's January 30 Republican presidential debate, McCain asserted that he "would not" support his own comprehensive immigration proposal, which included a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, if it came to a vote on the Senate floor.

Additionally, while McCain called the late Rev. Jerry Falwell and Rev. Pat Robertson "agents of intolerance" in a 2000 speech, he said in a 2006 interview on NBC's Meet the Press that he no longer believed that about Falwell and later delivered a graduation speech at Falwell's Liberty University. Benac also did not note that McCain recently accepted the endorsement of evangelist John Hagee, despite Hagee's controversial statements about the Catholic Church, Islam, women, homosexuality, and the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

In addition, while Benac noted that last summer, McCain "had $2 million in the bank, a pittance for a presidential candidate," she did not report that McCain's campaign obtained a loan in November 2007 that could have required McCain to remain an active candidate, regardless of whether he had any chance of winning, and apply for federal matching funds in order to repay the loan.

Benac also compared McCain's campaign during the summer of 2007 to "a pirate ship" managed by "a cadre of experienced hands who are volunteering their time":

McCain's pared-down campaign was likened to a pirate ship, a rapscallion's domain with hangers-on giving advice and keeping the candidate company.

Gone were the high-paid consultants.

In their place, a cadre of experienced hands who are volunteering their time -- because they believe in the man. On the bus or on the plane, they huddle around McCain hashing out strategy and message.

But while Benac asserted "the high-paid consultants" were "gone," she did not mention that they were replaced with new consultants, including several lobbyists, notwithstanding the media myth of McCain as a "maverick" who is feared by lobbyists and representatives of special interests. As Lisa Lerer reported in a July 11, 2007, Politico article, amid serious financial problems in his campaign, McCain appointed a lobbyist as his campaign manager and put two lobbyists in charge of fundraising.

From Lerer's July 2007 Politico article:

After a disappointing first-quarter fundraising effort, McCain put two lobbyists -- Tom Loeffler and Wayne Berman -- in charge of raising cash for his campaign. This week, after burning through campaign cash in the second quarter, he moved another lobbyist -- Richard Davis -- into the role of campaign manager.

In effect, that means lobbyists now both raise and spend McCain's campaign cash, fundamentally tying the most recognizable name in campaign finance reform to Washington's money complex.

But the greatest irony of all is that success by his new team in righting the campaign's momentum could mean that, of all the 2008 hopefuls, McCain could be most indebted to the lobbying and special-interest-money community that he has long sought to diminish.

Further, The New York Times reported on February 21 that McCain's campaign manager, lobbyist Rick Davis, "has been working without pay, a gift that could be worth tens of thousands of dollars." Additionally, reporting on the lobbyists working on McCain's campaign, The Washington Post noted the role of McCain's chief political adviser, Charles R. Black Jr. -- chairman of BKSH and Associates -- and wrote:

But even as Black provides a private voice and a public face for McCain, he also leads his lobbying firm, which offers corporate interests and foreign governments the promise of access to the most powerful lawmakers. Some of those companies have interests before the Senate and, in particular, the Commerce Committee, of which McCain is a member.

Black said he does a lot of his work by telephone from McCain's Straight Talk Express bus.

From the March 5 Associated Press article:

McCain's new resolve after the Iraq trip last summer didn't lessen the disarray he confronted upon his return home. He had just laid off more than 50 campaign workers and slashed the pay of others. He had $2 million in the bank, a pittance for a presidential candidate. He was running in single digits in the polls in Iowa and South Carolina, two early voting states, trailing even Fred Thompson, who hadn't entered the race.

[...]

The play of world events worked against him, too.

The war in Iraq was going badly, hugely unpopular at home. Democrats in Congress were pushing for withdrawal. McCain, a four-term senator from Arizona, was the key backer of Bush's troop-increase strategy.

The emergence of immigration as a central political issue was a problem, too. McCain's support for an eventual path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants angered conservative Republicans.

And there were questions about his age, especially in a campaign year when the buzz was all about change.

McCain would be 72 by Inauguration Day, the oldest first-term president.

[...]

Rudy Giuliani's failure to take off in Florida helped cement McCain's status as the GOP front-runner.

McCain's pared-down campaign was likened to a pirate ship, a rapscallion's domain with hangers-on giving advice and keeping the candidate company.

Gone were the high-paid consultants.

In their place, a cadre of experienced hands who are volunteering their time because they believe in the man. On the bus or on the plane, they huddle around McCain hashing out strategy and message.

McCain, who likes to say he's "older than dirt," with "more scars than Frankenstein," knows there is still a long way to go.

The campaign ahead, he said Tuesday, "will have its ups and downs." That was likely an understatement.

Questions about his age linger. His off-the-cuff wit and famous temper are sure to get him in trouble. His part in the Keating Five savings-and-loan scandal has been mentioned. More recently, he's had to answer questions about his relationship with a Washington lobbyist and her ties to business interests he dealt with on the Senate Commerce Committee.

Many GOP conservatives still don't trust him, citing his positions on issues such as immigration, campaign finance and global warming, as well as his feud with the religious right.

Network/Outlet
Associated Press
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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