Earlier this year, John McCain tried to defend the fact that his presidential campaign was jam-packed with lobbyists:
[T]hey’re honorable people, and I’m proud to have them as part of my team.
The right to represent interests of groups of Americans is a constitutional right. There are people that represent firemen, civil servants, retirees, and those people are legitimate representatives of a variety of interests in America.x50
But the lobbyists holding top spots in McCain’s campaign do not represent firemen, civil servants and retirees. Rather, they represent big corporations and foreign governments. Of McCain’s many lobbyists, here are three prime examples:
- McCain’s top national security adviser, Randy Scheunemann, has lobbied for such corporations as Lockheed Martin and BP, and has pulled in $2 million from corporations that have given significant money to McCain. Scheunemann was a board member of PNAC, the neocon think tank that came up with the policy of knocking off disfavored regimes by military invasion.x51x52 In 1998 he helped write the law that declared regime change in Iraq as U.S. policy and sent $98 million from the U.S. treasury to con man Ahmed Chalabi’s group, which posed as the Iraqi government in exile.x53 And in 2002 he helped with the marketing campaign for President Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Another policy Scheunemann pushed is expanding NATO into former Soviet states, such as the country of Georgia, which has paid $800,000 to Scheunemann’s two-man lobbying company.x54 For over a year, Scheunemann was getting paid for advice by McCain’s campaign, while his firm was getting paid by Georgia. McCain has championed Georgia’s issues, sponsoring a resolution to get Georgia into NATO, and totally taking Georgia’s side against Russia in the warfare between the two that started two weeks ago in Georgia’s breakaway province of South Ossetia.x55 After Russia invaded Georgia, McCain said he spoke with Georgia’s president Saakashvili and told him “the thoughts and the prayers and support of the American people are with that brave little nation” and “that I know I speak for every American when I say to him, ‘Today we are all Georgians.’“x56 But McCain left out the fact that Georgia started the warfare by attacking South Ossetia, where most persons have Russian citizenship, and killing many hundreds, including some Russian peacekeeping soldiers.x57
- McCain’s top campaign strategist, Charlie Black, is also a top Republican lobbyist, who has worked for such corporate clients as Lockheed Martin, GE, AT&T, Blackwater and Rupert Murdoch, and such foreign dictators as Marcos of the Phillipines, Siad Barre of Somalia and Mobutu of Zaire.x58x53 He has pulled in $30 million from corporations that have given significant money to McCain.x51 Black was Ahmed Chalabi’s main escort through the corridors of Washington, as the con man dished out lies to support the coming Iraq invasion. Black was also a big mover in getting AT&T and Verizon off the hook for helping Bush’s illegal warrantless wiretapping of American citizens.
- “I respect no one more in America on issue[s] of economics than I do Phil Gramm,” said McCain.x59 Gramm is McCain’s top economic adviser, but he had to lie low for a while after blaming U.S. economic woes on a “mental recession” and calling America “a nation of whiners”.x60 As a Senator, Gramm pushed through the “Enron loophole” exempting computer energy market trading from oversight, and enabling Enron’s market manipulation and accounting crimes.x61 As Congress was wrapping up business in December 2000, Gramm slipped into the budget another act removing oversight, effectively creating the “shadow banking system” that has led to the current mortgage crisis.x62 “Foreclosure Phil” now lobbies the U.S. Government for UBS, a big Swiss bank for the wealthy, where he pulls down a seven-figure salary.x53
The sorry record of his top advisers shows that a McCain presidency would strive to continue the Bush years of disastrous foreign and economic policy — and government that serves those big corporations and foreign politicos that shell out to the sleaziest cronies on K Street.
- Randy Scheunemann got paid $2,150,000 from corporate clients that gave $135,000 to McCain.
- Charlie Black got paid $30,811,500 from corporate clients that gave $1,519,043 to McCain.
For months while McCain’s presidential campaign was gearing up, Scheunemann held dual roles, advising the candidate on foreign policy while working as Georgia’s lobbyist. Between Jan. 1, 2007, and May 15, 2008, the campaign paid Scheunemann nearly $70,000 to provide foreign policy advice. During the same period, the government of Georgia paid his firm $290,000 in lobbying fees.
Since 2004, Orion has collected $800,000 from the government of Georgia.
In 2005, while registered as a paid lobbyist for Georgia, Scheunemann worked with McCain to draft a congressional resolution pushing for Georgia’s membership in NATO. A year later, while still on the Georgian payroll, Scheunemann accompanied McCain on a trip to that country, where they met with Saakashvili and supported his bellicose views toward Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
“You’ve heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession,” he said, noting that growth has held up at about 1 percent despite all the publicity over losing jobs to India, China, illegal immigration, housing and credit problems and record oil prices. “We may have a recession; we haven’t had one yet.”
“We have sort of become a nation of whiners,” he said. “You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline” despite a major export boom that is the primary reason that growth continues in the economy, he said.
Clearing the way for that California price gouging, Gramm, as a powerful Texas senator in 2000, slipped an Enron-backed provision into the Commodities Futures Modernization Act that exempted from regulation energy trading on electronic platforms.
Then, over the next year, Enron – with Gramm’s wife Wendy serving on its board of directors – worked to create false electricity shortages in California, bilking consumers out of an estimated $40 billion.
While his distracted peers probably finalized their Christmas gift lists, Gramm created what Wall Street analysts now refer to as the “shadow banking system,” an industry that operates outside any government oversight, but, as witnessed by the Bear Stearns debacle, requiring rescue by taxpayers to avert a national economic catastrophe.
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