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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 02/29/2008

Pinocchios for John McCain

By Michael Dobbs

"Everybody says they're against the special interests, but I'm the only one the special interests don't give any money to."

--John McCain, Town Hall meeting, New London, NH, Nov. 18, 2007.

With all the excitement surrounding the Democratic campaign, I have not been paying enough attention to John McCain and the Republicans. McCain has boasted that he is the only candidate who does not receive money from "special interests." You can listen to a video clip above on YouTube. He repeated much the same line in other town hall meetings in December and January. (I heard him say something similar myself shortly before the New Hampshire primary.)


The Facts

There are abundant facts to contradict McCain's claim, both in the present election and the last time he ran for president, in 2000. Public Citizen, a non-profit group researching campaign finance, has identified 59 lobbyists or former lobbyists who serve as major fund-raisers or "bundlers" for McCain. Many of the lobbyists who are raising money for McCain or working for him on his campaign have had business before the Senate Commerce Committee that he chaired between 1997 and 2001 and 2003 and 2005.

According to Public Citizen, McCain has more lobbyist-bundlers than any other candidate in the race, past or present. The list includes:

  • Former Congressman Tom Loeffler (R-Tex.). Loeffler heads a lobbying law firm known as the Loeffler Group. His clients have included the Saudi government, Southwest Airlines, AT&T, and the pharmaceutical industry's lobbying group, PhRMA. As national finance committee co-chairman, Loeffler is in effect McCain's top fundraiser.

  • Former Congressman James Courter, chief executive officer of the telecommunications group IDT, and national finance committee co-chairman for McCain. His past clients have included Goldman Sachs, Lockheed Martin, NBC, Merrill Lynch, and Microsoft.

  • Wayne Berman, managing director of government relations at Ogilvy Government Relations, whose clients include Citigroup and the Carlyle Group. Berman is a major fund-raiser for McCain, as well as being a senior adviser.

  • Charles Black, chairman of the lobby group BKSH & Associates, who also functions as McCain's top political adviser. A recent article in the Post quoted Black as saying that he conducts much of his lobbying business these days from the senator's campaign bus, Straight Talk Express.
  • According to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics, the Arizona senator has collected more than $3,000,000 from lawyers and employees of law firms, and $453,000 from self-identified lobbyists. Companies whose employees have contributed most to his campaign include big financial houses like Citigroup and Merrill Lynch and telecommunications companies like IDT and Univision. His top contributor is the Philadelphia-based law firm Blank Rome LLC.

    During the 2000 presidential campaign, McCain flew to several fund-raisers in a corporate jet belonging to Paxson Communications, which had business before his Senate committee. A study by the Center for Public Integrity showed that McCain received more than $2.5 million in contributions from telecommunications and media companies between 1996 and 2002, the bulk of the money during his unsuccessful 2000 presidential bid.

    McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said he was "troubled" that the Washington Post was "fact checking" a four-month-old McCain quote dug up by "liberal bloggers." See here and here.

    "He was obviously making the point that he has made a lot of special interests angry, and that has contributed to his fund-raising problems. He has a record of taking on special interests, defense contractors, Jack Abramoff, and pushing for lobbying reform. This is a guy who has spent his career trying to clean up the system and reform the way that Washington has done business. That has made him a lot of enemies."

    The Pinocchio Test

    It is true that the liberal blog ThinkProgress was the first to pick up on this quote--but that is irrelevant to whether or not it is accurate. John McCain has presented himself as the candidate who will stand up to the lobbyists and special interests and clean up Washington. He has denied doing any special favors for Paxson and other telecommunications companies as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. Whether or not favors were granted is another matter, but his claim that he is the only presidential candidate not to receive money from "special interests" is patently false.

    I was tempted to award four Pinocchios, but I am subtracting one because it is an old quote. Let me know if McCain has repeated the claim recently.

    (About our rating scale.

    By Michael Dobbs  | February 29, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
    Categories:  4 Pinocchios, Candidate Record, Candidate Watch  
    Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Readers Fact Check Dem Debate
    Next: Obama parses his words


    I just want to say thank you for this... it is so seldom that the press does its job as a watchdog anymore. We need the lies to be exposed and far more transparency in the government process.

    Posted by: drindl | February 29, 2008 8:53 AM | Report abuse

    What a shock!!! Juan Pablo McCain is lying. God Bless You Bill Cunningham!!!! Keep telling it like it is. This Commie Pinko McCain should be put back in a box in Gitmo. And we all know the truth. He was not a prisoner of war. That is such crap. He was lounging on a beach in Cali and now he pretends like he served this country. It sickens me!!! I love you Cunningham! You are a real hero. And you too, Sean Hannity. And Limbaugh!!! And Ingraham!!! Uh oh. Wait. None of you served your country. Hmmmm.

    Posted by: No Illegals | February 29, 2008 9:30 AM | Report abuse

    It's beginning to sound a lot like George W. Bush......

    Posted by: Ohg Rea Tone | February 29, 2008 10:30 AM | Report abuse

    Why the Washington Post hasn't do fact checking an allegation that Obama did smoke crack and have sex with another man( Larry Sinclair) in 1999?

    Posted by: Andy | February 29, 2008 11:04 AM | Report abuse

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    Posted by: u8di6xycx3 | February 29, 2008 11:29 AM | Report abuse

    McCain's middle name is actually SIDNEY, not Pablo.

    Posted by: JakeD | February 29, 2008 11:38 AM | Report abuse

    When, if ever, do you intend to begin to write stories on Obama and all of his flip-flopping, INCLUDING on campaign finance issues. Up on a soapbox one moment preaching one way, and then dodging the next moment when that position might actually hurt him.

    Rather than wasting everyone's time with all of your endless spin favorable to Obama, and relentless unfavorable coverage of Clinton and McCain, how about you just crown Barack "Present" Obama the king, declare yourselves the VP and members of his cabinet, and get married and live happily ever after.

    Posted by: dshelton | February 29, 2008 1:01 PM | Report abuse

    lol Andy, lol.

    Posted by: Anonymous | February 29, 2008 1:02 PM | Report abuse

    What a preposterous claim on McCain's part. Lobbyists who advise his campaign are doing business from aboard the "Straight Talk Express" on a daily basis. It's incredible anyone still doesn't get what a hypocrite McCain is.

    Posted by: B2O2 | February 29, 2008 1:12 PM | Report abuse

    It's hard to know what is truth and what is not. There is so much propaganda out there on the "misinformation superhighway."

    However, I personally find it hard to believe that anyone can rise so high in the Republican Party without sleazy connections with the big money.

    Posted by: randygrenier | February 29, 2008 1:49 PM | Report abuse

    Sorry, McCain is full of crap.

    The only candidate in the race with no special interest money is Dr. Ron Paul.

    Yeah, remember him? He's still around, flush with $6M+ in funds, no debt, and will be back in the saddle after he trounces his Congressional opponent wannabe in TX on Tuesday.

    Meanwhile McCain, the Panamanchurian Candidate, is not the confirmed nominee (the delegate counts are just fantasy league projections), he has scandals falling around him like rain (up next: Black Mesa!), is broke and fund-tied by the FEC, and is a general disaster...nice frontrunner, huh?

    Posted by: michael | February 29, 2008 2:26 PM | Report abuse

    Mr Mckain love the war, his barrel pork is in thw pentagone.

    Posted by: Albur | February 29, 2008 2:44 PM | Report abuse

    Andy, Mr. Sinclair has failed not one but two lie detector tests. I suggest you do a google search.

    Posted by: RJ | February 29, 2008 3:36 PM | Report abuse

    Thank you for this article. It is wise to check out the remarks candidates make and this just makes it easier.

    Posted by: Rosa2 | February 29, 2008 3:51 PM | Report abuse

    "Andy, Mr. Sinclair has failed not one but two lie detector tests. I suggest you do a google search."

    Give me a break. That comment gets 5 Pinochios. We all know the truth. Don't try to hide it. Juan Pablo McCain, a citizen of Panama, is the Republican front-runner. How funny is that!!!! And he will still win because his most likely opponent is a Muslim determined to hand this country over to Al-Qaeda. My God. What has happened to this great nation??? Please save us Sean Hannity, Bill Cunningham, Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter, O'Reilly, Limbaugh. You are the true noble great Americans. Please, one of you, run for office and save us from these traitors.

    Posted by: Anonymous | February 29, 2008 4:18 PM | Report abuse

    Hey! What about all the good things McCain has done? Hello?

    Posted by: filoporquequilo | February 29, 2008 5:57 PM | Report abuse

    Nice cut and paste hit job. If you listen to the more complete comments instead of the selective snips, you will see that McCain is talking about special interests in the defense procurement industry and, from what I can tell, none of the donors anyone has mentioned are in the defense procurement industry.

    That having been said, I wouldn't vote for any Republican. The well has been too deeply poisoned for me.

    Besides that, McCain is for continuing the war in Iraq - an ongoing business for billionaire corporations built built on layers of misery - which has nothing to do with securing anyone's freedom or safety.

    When the iron curtain fell, he and people of his generation needed something to replace it. The current War On "Tear" has fit the bill and fulfilled a lot of people's ideological needs, including McCain's, but tearing the world apart either in revenge or to make a profit doesn't happen to give me the same self-affirming sense of purpose it seems to give others.

    Posted by: C. Beck | February 29, 2008 6:04 PM | Report abuse

    McCain's little coterie of his top five B.F.F. lobbyists includes one who works for Lockheed Martin and another who works for United Technologies, which owns Northrop Grumman and lots of other arms companies.

    Posted by: OD | February 29, 2008 7:39 PM | Report abuse

    Andy - the Fact checker is for checking the claims made by the candidates, not specious rumors circulating around the internet.

    Incidentally (to others), Sean Hannity, Bill Cunningham, Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter, O'Reilly, Limbaugh have far too much fun mouthing off in the bubble to try and run for office. Losing an election would puncture their world view that only left wing nuts disagree with them. One must note, however, that Franken is doing just that.


    Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | February 29, 2008 10:30 PM | Report abuse

    To the person is who is too afraid to list a name on his posting, but is begging for the likes of Limbaugh and Coulter to run for office and save him:

    You are obviously an incredibly ill and delusional person. If you think that your vile right wing conservative republican anti-heros are going to save you or this country - you are sadly and completely mistaken. People like you are simply afraid and filled with self-loathing.

    Like I teach my two little children: "People who bully other people only do it because they feel so bad about themselves." Same goes for those who support bullies (that means you.)

    Go get some therapy, please.

    Posted by: Anonymous | February 29, 2008 11:23 PM | Report abuse

    To Andy,
    What makes you think Limbaugh and Coulter wants to save this country? They have been part of the neo-cons/bushies that have brought this country down, economy, war and so on..the status quo is not what this country needs.

    Posted by: Anonymous | March 2, 2008 2:21 PM | Report abuse

    Is it worth mentioning that four months ago McCain was out of the running? McCain had run out of money and had opted into the federal public money for the primary.

    He was polling around 12-18%. New Hampshire was the news and McCain was behind Romney and Guiliani.

    Four months ago there was no reason to fact-check McCain cause he wasn't going anywhere. So now you are using "old news" / "old quote" as a reason to tell me he wasn't lying as much as if he said the same thing today?

    It was a big, boldfaced lie then and it still is. Four months ago it didn't matter because he wasn't going to win the nomination. He is now set to cruise to win the GOP nomination.

    Does "character" matter? He is still a bald faced liar.

    Posted by: ftfc | March 2, 2008 2:23 PM | Report abuse

    If this article is true, than McCain is not telling public the truth. This will be another negative on him, among others. My guess is he will not be able to win in general elections.

    Posted by: friend2 | March 2, 2008 2:26 PM | Report abuse

    "With all the excitement surrounding the Democratic campaign, I have not been paying enough attention to John McCain and the Republicans."

    I wondered why only the Democrats were getting Pinocchios. I am so glad to understand that it was just "excitement" and not just your natural bias towards the GOP.

    Fact-checker rating scale:
    minus one for GOP,
    plus one for Hillary/Bill
    ad hoc add-on for Obama

    Will you go back and revise all the other ratings now that you are using the 'old quote' excuse to lessen the penalty for lying?

    Posted by: ftfc | March 2, 2008 2:29 PM | Report abuse

    Why the Washington Post hasn't do fact checking an allegation that John McCain and Hillary Clinton did smoke crack and have sex with another man( Larry Sinclair) in 1999?

    Posted by: Andy | March 2, 2008 3:49 PM | Report abuse

    Really, just the fact that he's a Republican office holder is almost enough to lay the lie to his claim.

    Posted by: tim_gregory | March 2, 2008 4:51 PM | Report abuse



    Obama and his team have ducked "legitimate questions" about Rezko, who faces federal corruption charges most centrally involved with Gov. Blagojevich's administration. "Now the trial is beginning, it will be more difficult for him to avoid these various serious questions. I can guarantee you that. Obama's Relationship with Rezko Goes Back 17 Years. Obama Kept Contributions from Accused Fixer's (REZKO) Wife and Others Analysis Shows. Obama opportuned Rezko to obtain jobs in the Blagojevich administration for Obama allies. For the third time in more than a year, Obama's presidential campaign announced it SO-CALLED shedding more donations

    WHERES THE MEDIA??? We are sick of the media pushing obama down our throats! Another indictment former Dallas Mayor Hill, Obama camp financial contributor and supporter charged with federal bribery, extortion and conspiracy. Again has their hand full with other publically indicted bankrollers like Rezko.

    NEXT! British-Iraqi billionaire lent millions of dollars to Barack Obama's fund just weeks before an imprudent land deal investigation. Money transfer from Nadhmi Auchi, one of Britain's wealthiest men, helped Mr Obama buy his mock Georgian mansion in Chicago. A company related to Mr Auchi, who has a conviction for corruption in France, registered the loan to Mr Obama's bagman Rezko. Mr. Auchi says the loan, through the Panamanian company Fintrade Services SA, was for $3.5 million.

    Another Obama "financial friend" Rep. Rick Renzi indicted Friday on multiple federal charges, law enforcement sources tell CNN. In a 35-count indictment handed up by a grand jury in Arizona, Renzi is charged with conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering extortion and insurance fraud. The indictment stem from Renzi's efforts to use his position in Congress to promote "land deals" Again more corrupt camp donations for Obama!

    Posted by: dyck21005 | March 2, 2008 7:07 PM | Report abuse

    mccain must think he can walk in bush's footsteps and no one will notice his lies---as the path to the offal office is paved with such blanket statements.

    of course he is completely indebted to special interests----so much so, they aren't special at all for him.

    they are the norm for seeking office.

    and he'll lose based on his loose tongue.

    Posted by: forestbloggod | March 2, 2008 8:09 PM | Report abuse

    fukat9 r u crazzy? I told u! I can't read!

    Posted by: zxevil137 | March 3, 2008 5:38 AM | Report abuse

    So the video is from November, and "He repeated much the same line in other town hall meetings in December and January." The fact that he may have stopped repeating this clearly untrue nonsense as much as a month ago makes it less of a lie how? Show a little integrity and give him the full 4 Pinocchios. I promise they won't take away your McCain pom-poms.

    Posted by: Stewie Griffin | March 3, 2008 6:34 PM | Report abuse

    Hilliary and Bill is what democrcy is all about? And the officials in Canada and Mexico come out of their snake holes to reveal and try to smear Obama? why should he back down to what is the truth about NAFTA,being that it weakened the unions and caused job losses simple and clear. And who signed the agreement while in office Bill Clinton lifted the barriers. some on this blog said we better watch what we say about Canada and Mexico because they are our biggest oil contributers but he forgot to mention they profit nicely with what we pay for their oil so we are doubly cut up one side and down the other.
    NAFTA eliminates the tariffs between us and our closest neighbors Mex. and Canada.Its about creating products there and sell them back to us for previous,lower wages being the attraction for outsourcing.Costing thousands of job losses moving the product out of country, only to sell them back to us, the very people they abandoned. This is immoral to democracy in what it does to the other country in trade agreements signed btwn unequalpowers., under monolithic strucure that is corporate interest. I hope and pray that our next leader is for the common people, who are on fast track to be silenced by Big corporate officials who come into town to do business, look around and before the workers know whats in the wind because the company doesn,t tell them why ..only that competition warrents decisions. by electing some one who isn,t afraid to speak out against trade agreements, and we keep up the support for that candidate, we can make a difference. to qoute Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a begger. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggers need restructuring."

    Posted by: Anonymous | March 3, 2008 7:58 PM | Report abuse

    McCain puts us in mind of our own Uncle. He has lied so many times that he is starting to believe his own lies.

    The ONLY candidate that has NEVER accepted money from Lobbyists is Our STATESMAN Dr. Ron Paul. In fact when the Lobbyists go to Washington they walk right past the Honorable Dr. Paul.

    McInsane has NOT won yet and there are many groups working on getting him thrown out of the Republican Party. He is NOTHING but a Liberal in a Republican suit.

    The REAL Veterans hate McInsane for sponsoring a Bill that recognizes all POWs as being DEAD when there is PROOF many are still ALIVE.

    In our eyes McInsane is a traitor and deserves to receive the punishment that any traitor would receive. Maybe not a traitor to the American people but DEFINITELY a traitor to the Republican Party and Veterans.

    By the way, while the sheep have been watching these RIGGED Beauty Contests, Dr. Paul's supporters have been getting Delegates as well as resolutions passed in their precincts to oust McInsane.


    ONLY A Doctor WILL HEAL Our Country,
    Freedom4America Group

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