McCain’s Money
George Szamuely
New York Press


There is something deliciously appropriate about William Kristol’s hysterical embrace of Sen. John McCain. Kristol and McCain have for some time been two of the most pernicious figures in American politics. They fell in love last year as the bombs were dropping on Belgrade. Every 15 minutes or so one or the other would be on the box demanding the death of yet more Serbs and the introduction of "ground troops." For some years now Kristol had been searching for some larger-than-life man who would succeed in realizing his puerile dream of "national greatness." McCain clearly is this man. All one needs is empty bluster and limitless self-righteousness.

In a recent issue of The Weekly Standard Bill Kristol and David Brooks announced that "John McCain is taking on the Republican establishment… Like Reagan and Gingrich, McCain makes the corporate and lobbyist types nervous." Corporate and lobbyist types nervous? They have to be kidding. McCain’s entire career–including marriage to the heiress to one of the nation’s largest Anheuser-Busch distributorships after he returned from Vietnam and dropped his first wife–is testimony to the power of corporate America.

McCain has spent all his time hanging around with corporate lobbyists, showering political favors hither and yon in return for campaign contributions. For all his vaunted combativeness, he has always taken on only the easiest of targets. He is against "pork." (Who isn’t?) He is against the tobacco industry. (Okay, but he is for the alcohol industry–the family connection helps.) He is against "soft money" even as he helps himself to large dollops of "hard money."

And he is the noisiest of patriots. He wants to pick a fight with everyone. American "values" are always on the line. The "rogue states" are always about to commit dastardly deeds. During last year’s murderous spree, egged on by the war-crazed media, he talked as if he really believed he was the commander-in-chief. "When I urged the President of the United States not to rule out the option of ground forces," he declared sonorously, "then I also assumed responsibility for what may be the loss of young Americans’ lives... I don’t know how it affects my campaign. But I’ve basically put my campaign on hold to some degree."

A senator gassing away with Bob Novak or Bernie Shaw in the middle of the afternoon has not "assumed responsibility" for anything. Nor was he unaware how his demagoguery was playing in the media.

For the past three years McCain has used his chairmanship of the Senate Commerce, Transportation and Science Committee to squeeze campaign contributions from huge corporations. McCain’s biggest campaign contributors all have business before his committee. New Times’ Amy Silverman has reported that people who testified before the committee between January 1997 and November 1999 donated nearly $800,000. They made the contributions personally or through their employers’ PACs. Of those who testified, representatives of industry outnumbered consumer groups by more than 10 to one. Witnesses for industry accounted for all of the contributions. Companies like America Online, EchoStar, Union Pacific and US West–all of whom regularly have business before his committee–have hosted fundraisers for McCain.

The biggest contributor to McCain has been the telecommunications industry, which has contributed almost $1 million. That includes US West, Bell South and Bell Atlantic, which are trying to get into the long-distance telephone service and Internet access business. And McCain is pushing telecommunications legislation to do just that. Viacom, Boeing and AT&T are all major contributors to McCain. McCain’s committee oversees the Federal Aviation Administration; McCain has received at least $83,900 from major airline employees and their PACs. Overall he has received at least $182,000 from the aviation industry. Not coincidentally, Congress gutted the so-called Airline Passenger Bill of Rights. For years McCain has tried to win an increase in the number of slots at Reagan National Airport for the Arizona-based America West Airlines. America West Airlines has donated at least $11,500 to McCain.

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Puerto Rico Libre – and Good Riddance

Leave China Alone

A World Safe for Kleptocracy

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All articles reprinted with permission from the New York Press

It is no surprise then to find so many corporate lobbyists involved in McCain’s campaign. Former Reagan aide Rick Davis is his campaign manager. The Associated Press reports that Davis has taken a leave of absence from the firm of Davis, Manafort and Freedman, where he is managing partner. The firm’s clients include Comsat. Under legislation McCain is helping to write, it would no longer control access to the global satellite consortium, Intelsat. Another client is SBC Communications, which, like other Bell companies, wants federal approval to carry data over long-distance lines.

Kenneth Duberstein is another McCain operative. Formerly chief of staff in Ronald Reagan’s White House, he is now a member of McCain’s national campaign steering committee. He is also chairman of the Duberstein Group, whose clients include United Airlines and CSX, one of the nation’s largest freight railroads. The AP further notes that McCain is involved in negotiations to renew the Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees United. McCain has also introduced legislation to renew the Surface Transportation Board, which regulates CSX. Another member of McCain’s national campaign steering committee is former Congressman Vin Weber. Weber runs the Washington office of Clark and Weinstock. Its clients include the Air Transport Association–the trade group for the nation’s airlines–and AT&T, whose executives contributed $10,000 to McCain’s campaign shortly after McCain introduced legislation that could have made it easier for the phone giant to expand further into the cable television business.

One thing we can be sure of, with McCain as president and Kristol his chief advocate, the military-industrial complex will be humming happily. I don’t know about anyone else though.

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