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Obama Lawyer Critical of McCain Cell Phone Tower

By James V. Grimaldi
The Obama campaign's top lawyer today criticized John McCain for accepting free cell phone towers from two wireless companies that placed the devices on his wife's remote ranch in Arizona to improve a coverage dead zone.

"This is John McCain's display of his maverick ethics: He believes he is entitled to free cell service while other Americans have to pay for theirs," said Bob Bauer, general counsel of the Democratic presidential candidate's campaign and chairman of the political law practice at Perkins Coie LLP.

The Washington Post reported last night that Verizon Wireless and AT&T installed portable cellular towers on the ranch, located in a canyon 12 miles southwest of Sedona, providing consistent coverage to the ranch for the first time.

In response to the reports, McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rogers told the Associated Press, "This story is a disgrace. The McCain's went through the process that is available to anybody who subscribes to one of these cell phone companies to inquire about getting service."

Records filed with the Federal Election Commission show that Verizon and AT&T are the top wireless services used by McCain campaign workers. McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, have used the ranch to practice for the debates and strategy sessions have been held there.

Jim Cicconi, AT&T senior executive vice president for external affairs, said in a statement that the company would have provided the same level of customer service for Obama. "We made a temporary accommodation to Senator McCain, who is a presidential nominee," Cicconi said. "Should a similar need arise, we would make the same accommodation for Senator Obama."

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 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 there.

By Web Politics Editor  |  October 16, 2008; 9:39 AM ET
Categories:  B_Blog , Barack Obama , Ethics , John McCain  
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McCain has a sense of entiltement that comes from him living in a separate world of wealth and privilege.
13 cars, 7 houses and a Jet won't make him one of us, working for a living.

Posted by: John6Pack | October 16, 2008 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Obama doesn't care about our country. He just wants to do more of 'negative campaigning'.

Posted by: djred19678 | October 16, 2008 3:20 PM | Report abuse

The author has not presented all of the facts objectively and his assumptions are based on half truths and innuendos. Afer reading the following article in the NY Times, you may come away with a completely different conclusion. The NYT article is entitled, "Two Companies Put Up Cellular Towers at McCain Ranch" By LARRY ROHTER, Published: October 15, 2008; "Two of the nation’s largest telephone companies, Verizon and AT&T, have installed temporary communications towers at the Arizona ranch of Senator John McCain to provide cellular telephone coverage there, the two companies said Wednesday. But both said they did so for business reasons and not at the request of Mr. McCain," Get it right the first time Grimaldi.

Posted by: Capt-Bob | October 16, 2008 2:51 PM | Report abuse

As an Obama supporter, I could care less about this. It is just a way to swing independents towrds Obama...and for some fools it might work. As it is, regardless if Cindy McCain or Mickey Mouse asked for it, the secret service DEFINITELY needs it. I am not interested in seeing one of our candidates getting injured or killed because the secret service didn't have cell phone coverage...even though I think McCain is a total moron and a complete waste of time.

Posted by: Grant_x | October 16, 2008 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Wow- Arizona sounds like an extraordinary place!

According to Cindy McCain, you "need a private jet to get around", and now we hear you need your own cell phone towers!

What spoiled brats the McCains are!

Posted by: julieds | October 16, 2008 2:35 PM | Report abuse

so he has 8 or ten houses so what does that mean most of you have this problem with a free country you have a right to have as many houses you want or cars or money to think that you have the right to part of it is sick envy isnt a good thing im not rich ive been working since i was 14 im 50 im poor but dont sit around and cry about what i dont have a lot of you need to get a life and stop worrying about someone elses

Posted by: getsix1 | October 16, 2008 1:32 PM


I don't think you get it. John McCain lives like a king and don't have a clue about what the average American is going through. How can you fix a problem if you can't see it in front of your face. He cuts these trade deals that aren't fair and we get screwed because he only cares about his friends. What does he expect the millions of people to do that can't afford a college education. What about the people that don't want to sit behind some friggin desk for 50 years. These morons sold us out. Now we're the stackers of Chinese goods. We don't care about him being rich. We just want him to realize that the rest of us aren't.

Posted by: HemiHead66 | October 16, 2008 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Garsh, this is what puts Obama's peoples' panties in a twist? A cell phone tower? Is there something else this news rag wants to write about?

Posted by: candyzky | October 16, 2008 1:53 PM | Report abuse

They do realize that people get payed out the hind-end for the leasing of the land to build those towers, right? So if he's getting paid the same rate as others and still has free cell service, then its something to worry about. And I'm totally against hand outs. If I have to pay for something, I totally believe that everyone has to pay for it, also.

Posted by: krysbrew | October 16, 2008 1:22 PM

LOL! No kidding. The cell phone company is getting a great deal!

Posted by: flatlander1992 | October 16, 2008 1:52 PM | Report abuse

so he has 8 or ten houses so what does that mean most of you have this problem with a free country you have a right to have as many houses you want or cars or money to think that you have the right to part of it is sick envy isnt a good thing im not rich ive been working since i was 14 im 50 im poor but dont sit around and cry about what i dont have a lot of you need to get a life and stop worrying about someone elses

Posted by: getsix1 | October 16, 2008 1:32 PM | Report abuse

You want to hear about how much trouble our country is in. You only need to listen to the first minute to figure out we're screwed.

Posted by: HemiHead66 | October 16, 2008 1:30 PM | Report abuse

They do realize that people get payed out the hind-end for the leasing of the land to build those towers, right? So if he's getting paid the same rate as others and still has free cell service, then its something to worry about. And I'm totally against hand outs. If I have to pay for something, I totally believe that everyone has to pay for it, also.

Posted by: krysbrew | October 16, 2008 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Dear PaulFlorez. Thank you for your request for a temporary tower in your back garden. I'm sorry, all our towers are busy at the moment serving other political customers with pressing presidential asperations but your business IS important to us. Please resend your request some time after November 4th when we should be able to ignore it with a little more efficiency. Again, thank you for your business. Have nice day.

Posted by: spanielmcnugget | October 16, 2008 1:20 PM | Report abuse

I would take exception to the "regulatory hurdle" comment. That comment is likely just a misdirection of the history.

I have been a professional witness for homeowners that did not want these things needlessly close to their houses, when better sites were available in the immediate area. There was even capacity available on an existing tower on city ground, leased by a competitor.

This proposed tower was being built to cover a blind spot on an adjoining golf course. Seems several execs had gotten fired when they were busted for not being at their workplace.

Federal law makes their installation virtually impossible to stop by any state or local agency, except on grounds of safety.

Now a terrorist using a permanent tower at the McCain ranch as a homing beacon like the Japanese at Pearl Harbor?

BTW: We won and the tower was not built.

Posted by: rrrarick | October 16, 2008 1:17 PM | Report abuse

This is only an issue if the press makes it one.
You forget he is a presidential candidate and has security issues. If he were attacked it would be ashame to have them running around screaming " who has a sat phone" because they dont have a signal. The real issue is Obama sending guys like me and "Joe" down the drain.

Posted by: dbakerpa | October 16, 2008 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Man, I live about one mile from I-85 and I can't even get high speed internet service from AT&T. 7 Friggin years I've been asking for it.

Posted by: HemiHead66 | October 16, 2008 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Is this the "dirt" Obama and his people can come up with?! oh please.

oh, and lets not talk about Obama's associations with Ayers and Wright and ...

...its like Obama wanting to put a basketball court in the White House,
... big deal.

Posted by: Lalalu | October 16, 2008 1:11 PM | Report abuse

I just emailed AT&T and asked them to provide a temporary tower so that I can cell phone cover at my dead-zone home. They'll provide me with one for free just like they provided McCain one, right?

Posted by: paulflorez | October 16, 2008 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Grimaldi. This article is ridiculous.

Posted by: isjl | October 16, 2008 1:08 PM | Report abuse

That's right Jabberwolff, "UNLIKE OBAMA,
MCCAIN DOESNT WRITE IN PORK BARREL EARMARKS AS FAVORS IN BILLS." In fact the 2006 $10m set aside for the University of Arizona was actually just a spelling mistake in the bill, albeit one that took up a few lines, but a spelling mistake nonetheless. And the 2003 $14m that appeared in the Defense Appropriations Bill for apparetnly for Luke AFB was in fact a cut and paste error on the part of the people who drew up the bill, shame on them!

Posted by: spanielmcnugget | October 16, 2008 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Ridiculous story.

Posted by: bsimon1 | October 16, 2008 1:00 PM | Report abuse

I also work in doubt you set up these mobile cell sites for temporary service, and yes this is probably an NON story....the problem?....How does the public interpret this?....especially since McCain could have set up camp at any of his other dozen homes.

Posted by: zorich | October 16, 2008 12:56 PM | Report abuse

I can see Obama and his photoshop troops happily sitting out in the middle of nowhere, running a presidential campaign w/o cell service. Regardless, was there any special treatment? Mrs. McCain offered her land for free, and there still was no tower. The SS requested a tower and got a temporary one. No story. Next!

Posted by: fraccle | October 16, 2008 12:50 PM | Report abuse

I'm not very knowledgeable over the issue; however, with all the possible facets of this wide ranging presidential campaign, this one appears to be a non-starter. The cell phone companies could put this to rest by some fresh-air revelation of their corporate policies concerning construction of new towers. And the Secret Service issue appears to have legs. Go Obama!!

Posted by: DavidGD | October 16, 2008 12:42 PM | Report abuse


A cell tower would cover a dead zone, not just for Mccain but many others.

But, it's not even his. He has no ownership of it, they can take it down and away whenever they wish. Mccain doesnt give back to lobbyists because,UNLIKE OBAMA,

That's Obama's job.

I mean its not like Mccain got a 100,000 break off the purchase of his house or anything... now did he Obama!???

Posted by: jabberwolff | October 16, 2008 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Did McCain choose to hang out at this house instead of one of his other 8? 10? homes so he could get better cell coverage? Did he abuse his power as Presidential Candidate to improve his personal situation? If cell coverage was so bad he should have used another one of his many homes to use. This is absurd.

Posted by: dlanet | October 16, 2008 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Bob Bauer...why ya gotta do this? At this point? A respectable lawyer without all the facts...are you sure you checked with Obama before stepping into this one?

Posted by: surrogate4 | October 16, 2008 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Come on! How can seemingly smart people get distracted so easily? Regardless of your affinity there are real issues that we all should be more concerned about rather than this silly drivel.

This year's elections, at all levels, are becoming an embarassment. Where are our leaders and why are we encouraging people who should know better? I wish that we could just start over.

Posted by: sailorbill | October 16, 2008 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Some years back I lived in a dead zone for over a year. The company, Pac Bell (no longer in business) promised that they'd have a new tower up in a week or two. I went through listening to that "week or two" for a whole year every month when I paid my bill before I dropped them after my contract was ended. This was in the east side of Los Angeles.

I'm sure I would have gotten some faster results if I was McCain.

You know what the difference is between Democrats and Republicans when they get gifts from companies and lobbyists? Democrats say "Thank you" but Republicans say "Your welcome."

Posted by: gcoyne | October 16, 2008 12:08 PM | Report abuse

This news story should read "Obama Lawyer Rips McCain over Cell Phone Tower" - This is the type of federal electoral ethics violations that needs to be investigated. I am sure "Joe the Plummer" would not get the same service from these cell phone providers.

Posted by: doctormiguel | October 16, 2008 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Service in populated areas already suck!!! How is it that, just because Billionare Barbie and the Alaskan Beauty Queen have been dragged out in the sticks to McSanes Hanoi Hilton, AT&T and Verizon would work so hard to create a reception for just a few folks? It sounds to be an expensive and non-profitable venture for the elite only. Now that everyone knows how simple it is to get cell service in other dead spots, the big telecoms should be getting really busy really soon.

Obama/Biden 08

Posted by: rebnrdu | October 16, 2008 11:59 AM | Report abuse

NOTHING LIKE "FREE PORK" DIRECTLY FOR MCCAIN -- He better declare it on his Senate income disclosures, or maybe he can join indicted Alaska Senator Ted Stevens in a trial!!!

Posted by: benighse | October 16, 2008 11:49 AM | Report abuse

This guy is a moron. My friend gets thousands of dollars for leasing his 30x30 spot on his land to cell companies. Senator McCain is not getting back in free cell service what he could make by leasing the space. Good try moron!!

Posted by: cbl0213 | October 16, 2008 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Why is it that free and liberal speech is so wrong. This lawyer reminds me of the Stanley Kurtz denial to public library information. Communications is what makes us tick.
What kind of Country is the Dem hopeful wanting to create?

Locals in the Mccain ranch area are thrilled to see the access arrive.
I take it this lawyer has never been to that beautiful part of the Country.
Driving to cell access and sitting in your car to conduct business and talk on the cell must not be part of his World.

How thoughtless of the people in that area this lawyer is!!!!
He should retract the criticism poste haste to avoid the appearance of more Un-American suppression of the free World.

Posted by: dottydo | October 16, 2008 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Hey "theepan"...your post just goes to show how dumb some democrats are. A spending freeze doesn't mean the government stops spending. A spending freeze would prevent any new and/or increased spending.

Posted by: dwj2215 | October 16, 2008 11:10 AM | Report abuse

I'm no fan of McCain, but this is a non-story. I work in telecomms and its fairly standard practice to set up temporary sites at special events, sporting events, music festivals - anything that meens thousands of extra people are in an area than would usually be planned for. If McCain is running his campaign from his ranch, no doubt with a fair number of press, the number of calls made in this area is going to rocket. I'd be shocked if the vendor wouldn't supply additional coverage. Especiially if, as mentioned in the article, they are obliged to do so for the Secret Service.

Posted by: demandtheworst | October 16, 2008 11:05 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: ca67klein | October 16, 2008 11:05 AM | Report abuse

rabble rabble DRILL rabble JOE SIX PACK rabble rabble rabble rabble TAKE YER GUNS rabble rabble RAISE TAXES rabble COMMUNIST rabble TERRORIST rabble rabble rabble MIDDLE CLASS rabble MAIN STREET rabble rabble CRISIS RABBLE!!!

Posted by: JohnnyREP | October 16, 2008 11:00 AM | Report abuse

I just requested a cell tower from Verizon. I have not had cell service at my home for over 2 years. I am so happy that now I will finally will have service at home. Who knew how easy it was. All I had to do was just request a tower! I can't wait to hear back from Verizon.

Posted by: ander46522 | October 16, 2008 10:48 AM | Report abuse

More ado about nothing. This election has set a new world record for the greatest number of words spoken without really saying anything....

Posted by: Boomer54 | October 16, 2008 10:47 AM | Report abuse

This proves how smart Republicans are. It's like having cancer machine in your house.

McCain is going to freeze spending to save money. It's like 'honey no food for next few months, we need to save money'

Some people think freezing spending would same money, It would result in long term devastation.

Only by having military power won't keep you super power forever. You need to have well educated to run from small business and organizations to large business and organization.

Posted by: theepan | October 16, 2008 10:45 AM | Report abuse

What a crook. It may be true that cell phone companies will pay propery owners to allow them to put up towers on their property in areas where there is a sufficient number of subscribers, but this is not such a case. This is why the McCain's don't worry about helping out the middle class, they get everything for free.

Posted by: smp55 | October 16, 2008 10:40 AM | Report abuse

I work in Palos Verdes California, and cell phones suck here, good luck in getting a tower installed to improve coverage....what a crock of crap.....this is more pork....

Posted by: woodard3 | October 16, 2008 10:36 AM | Report abuse

I work in Palos Verdes California, and cell phones suck here, good luck in getting a tower installed to improve coverage....what a crock of crap.....

Posted by: woodard3 | October 16, 2008 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Who, in their right mind, would WANT a cell tower on their property? The International Association of Firefighters has banned cell towers from their stations because firefighters were getting sick!!! So in most towns, the local, poorly funded elementary school down the street from the fire station gets the tower. The money hardly compensates for the damage these towers do. So let the MCCains have their tower!!It's just what he needs with his medical history.

Posted by: hg_52 | October 16, 2008 10:35 AM | Report abuse

First, the Secret Service adequately answered the issue...

But secondly, isn't it in Verizon's interest to broaden their coverage in spotty areas, and don't they usually PAY property owners to locate a tower on their property!?

Seems like another case of Obama parsing words to make things sound like something they're not!

Posted by: edeldoug | October 16, 2008 10:30 AM | Report abuse

And these companies won't let anybody listen in on your calls, either.

More disgusting behavior among the privileged (business/first)class.

At some point, we just might tire of this crap and do something.

Maybe, work against and vote against every incumbent for the next three election cycles. We all have seen how just a few hundred votes can make a significant change happen.


Posted by: bgreen2224 | October 16, 2008 10:26 AM | Report abuse

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