Grandpa McCain’s chick on the side

Standard

WASHINGTON — Early in Senator John McCain’s first run for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his small circle of advisers.

A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.

When news organizations reported that Mr. McCain had written letters to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist’s client, the former campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that attention would fall on her involvement.

Mr. McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both say they never had a romantic relationship. But to his advisers, even the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity.

It had been just a decade since an official favor for a friend with regulatory problems had nearly ended Mr. McCain’s political career by ensnaring him in the Keating Five scandal. In the years that followed, he reinvented himself as the scourge of special interests, a crusader for stricter ethics and campaign finance rules, a man of honor chastened by a brush with shame.

But the concerns about Mr. McCain’s relationship with Ms. Iseman underscored an enduring paradox of his post-Keating career. Even as he has vowed to hold himself to the highest ethical standards, his confidence in his own integrity has sometimes seemed to blind him to potentially embarrassing conflicts of interest.

Mr. McCain promised, for example, never to fly directly from Washington to Phoenix, his hometown, to avoid the impression of self-interest because he sponsored a law that opened the route nearly a decade ago. But like other lawmakers, he often flew on the corporate jets of business executives seeking his support, including the media moguls Rupert Murdoch, Michael R. Bloomberg and Lowell W. Paxson, Ms. Iseman’s client. (Last year he voted to end the practice.)

Mr. McCain’s confidence in his ability to distinguish personal friendships from compromising connections was at the center of questions advisers raised about Ms. Iseman.

The lobbyist, a partner at the firm Alcalde & Fay, represented telecommunications companies for whom Mr. McCain’s commerce committee was pivotal. Her clients contributed tens of thousands of dollars to his campaigns.

Mr. Black said Mr. McCain and Ms. Iseman were friends and nothing more. But in 1999 she began showing up so frequently in his offices and at campaign events that staff members took notice. One recalled asking, “Why is she always around?”

That February, Mr. McCain and Ms. Iseman attended a small fund-raising dinner with several clients at the Miami-area home of a cruise-line executive and then flew back to Washington along with a campaign aide on the corporate jet of one of her clients, Paxson Communications. By then, according to two former McCain associates, some of the senator’s advisers had grown so concerned that the relationship had become romantic that they took steps to intervene.

A former campaign adviser described being instructed to keep Ms. Iseman away from the senator at public events, while a Senate aide recalled plans to limit Ms. Iseman’s access to his offices.

In interviews, the two former associates said they joined in a series of confrontations with Mr. McCain, warning him that he was risking his campaign and career. Both said Mr. McCain acknowledged behaving inappropriately and pledged to keep his distance from Ms. Iseman. The two associates, who said they had become disillusioned with the senator, spoke independently of each other and provided details that were corroborated by others.

Separately, a top McCain aide met with Ms. Iseman at Union Station in Washington to ask her to stay away from the senator. John Weaver, a former top strategist and now an informal campaign adviser, said in an e-mail message that he arranged the meeting after “a discussion among the campaign leadership” about her.

“Our political messaging during that time period centered around taking on the special interests and placing the nation’s interests before either personal or special interest,” Mr. Weaver continued. “Ms. Iseman’s involvement in the campaign, it was felt by us, could undermine that effort.”

Mr. Weaver added that the brief conversation was only about “her conduct and what she allegedly had told people, which made its way back to us.” He declined to elaborate.

It is not clear what effect the warnings had; the associates said their concerns receded in the heat of the campaign.

Ms. Iseman acknowledged meeting with Mr. Weaver, but disputed his account.

“I never discussed with him alleged things I had ‘told people,’ that had made their way ‘back to’ him,” she wrote in an e-mail message. She said she never received special treatment from Mr. McCain’s office.

Mr. McCain said that the relationship was not romantic and that he never showed favoritism to Ms. Iseman or her clients. “I have never betrayed the public trust by doing anything like that,” he said. He made the statements in a call to Bill Keller, the executive editor of The New York Times, to complain about the paper’s inquiries.

The senator declined repeated interview requests, beginning in December. He also would not comment about the assertions that he had been confronted about Ms. Iseman, Mr. Black said Wednesday.

Mr. Davis and Mark Salter, Mr. McCain’s top strategists in both of his presidential campaigns, disputed accounts from the former associates and aides and said they did not discuss Ms. Iseman with the senator or colleagues.

“I never had any good reason to think that the relationship was anything other than professional, a friendly professional relationship,” Mr. Salter said in an interview.

He and Mr. Davis also said Mr. McCain had frequently denied requests from Ms. Iseman and the companies she represented. In 2006, Mr. McCain sought to break up cable subscription packages, which some of her clients opposed. And his proposals for satellite distribution of local television programs fell short of her clients’ hopes.

The McCain aides said the senator sided with Ms. Iseman’s clients only when their positions hewed to his principles

A champion of deregulation, Mr. McCain wrote letters in 1998 and 1999 to the Federal Communications Commission urging it to uphold marketing agreements allowing a television company to control two stations in the same city, a crucial issue for Glencairn Ltd., one of Ms. Iseman’s clients. He introduced a bill to create tax incentives for minority ownership of stations; Ms. Iseman represented several businesses seeking such a program. And he twice tried to advance legislation that would permit a company to control television stations in overlapping markets, an important issue for Paxson.

In late 1999, Ms. Iseman asked Mr. McCain’s staff to send a letter to the commission to help Paxson, now Ion Media Networks, on another matter. Mr. Paxson was impatient for F.C.C. approval of a television deal, and Ms. Iseman acknowledged in an e-mail message to The Times that she had sent to Mr. McCain’s staff information for drafting a letter urging a swift decision.

Mr. McCain complied. He sent two letters to the commission, drawing a rare rebuke for interference from its chairman. In an embarrassing turn for the campaign, news reports invoked the Keating scandal, once again raising questions about intervening for a patron.

Mr. McCain’s aides released all of his letters to the F.C.C. to dispel accusations of favoritism, and aides said the campaign had properly accounted for four trips on the Paxson plane. But the campaign did not report the flight with Ms. Iseman. Mr. McCain’s advisers say he was not required to disclose the flight, but ethics lawyers dispute that.

Recalling the Paxson episode in his memoir, Mr. McCain said he was merely trying to push along a slow-moving bureaucracy, but added that he was not surprised by the criticism given his history.

“Any hint that I might have acted to reward a supporter,” he wrote, “would be taken as an egregious act of hypocrisy.”

Statement by McCain

Mr. McCain’s presidential campaign issued the following statement Wednesday night:

“It is a shame that The New York Times has lowered its standards to engage in a hit-and-run smear campaign. John McCain has a 24-year record of serving our country with honor and integrity. He has never violated the public trust, never done favors for special interests or lobbyists, and he will not allow a smear campaign to distract from the issues at stake in this election.

“Americans are sick and tired of this kind of gutter politics, and there is nothing in this story to suggest that John McCain has ever violated the principles that have guided his career.”

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24 thoughts on “Grandpa McCain’s chick on the side

  1. Dang, the ReThugs really don’t want McCain to be their boy for the general election if they’re leaking stories like this.

    Ol’ boy got a COTS (Chick on the Side)…yawn, so I guess Cindy (the trophy wife he left his first wife for) ain’t doing it for him anymore.

    He sho do like ’em young….must have gone to the Newt Gingrich school on Faithfulness in Marriage.

  2. Was this pre or post VIAGRA?

    Ok, I can’t help it.

    BWA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

    Can I tell you that Mama was all up in this story. She was like, I heard something about McCain…go on that internet and find what’s up.

    When I told her, she was cracking up.

    ” God don’t like ugly.”

    I have to explain…Mama can’t stand McCain….because he left his FIRST wife for the present Pill-Poppin’ Trophy. Once a man does that, Mama is THRU with them.

    This doesn’t bode well for him and the Bible Thumpers.

  3. Chesapeake

    Y’all crazy … (rikyrah … Romney … that laugh substituted for my crunches this afternoon). He needs another committee to explore his chances of winning upon “unsuspending.”

    But, now why didn’t people close to the mayor do for him what McCain’s aids apparently did? The proof’s not all in, yet, but it reads like they shut that thing down, smacked McCain around to knock some sense into him, and told him to shut up and campaign ’cause he had no choice in the matter.

    Think some text messages will be popping up?

  4. Remember, Mittens hasn’t closed up his campaign; he just “suspended” it.

    Which means he was sensing something was up and he was going to stick around, even though the Thugs put a gun to Mitt’s head and told him to endorse McCain.

    And the Huckster hasn’t quit his campaign, either.

    So I submit they both knew something was up, and were probably signaled to stick around, cause no one cried when Fred and Rudy dropped out of the race.

    That “something being up” was McCain’s COTS.

    And the NYT is acting like they’re bi-polar; they endorsed McCain, but are leaking this story. Someone should ask them what the hell game they are playing – however, it’s too delicious to watch the ReThugs eat their own.

  5. denise

    OGs like McCain ain’t new to this game.

    I suspect his handlers did a threat assessment long ago to flag this type of stuff – be it true or wide-open to interpretation. I think Team McCain is prepared to respond to the media attention.

    I’m just curious to see on whose doorstep the next “shit bomb” explodes. LMAO!

  6. Bay

    Rikyrah,

    Your mama sounds too cute! “God don’t like ugly”, indeed! LOL!

    The first thing that came to my mind though was the Lord was swift to put Cindy in her place. One day, like the weak coward she is, she kicks Michelle Obama while she’s down and the very next day God said, “Not so fast, boo!”

    I’m sure Michelle is just feeling lovely today, while Cindy is on the floor of the campaign bus bathroom, curled up in a fetal position, and balling her reconstructed eyes out!

    HA HA!!!

  7. TripLBee

    The real issue is that the so called “maverick” politician who tilts against the lobbyist windmills, was giving legislative favors to a lobbyist. That is far more damaging than whether or not he was sleeping with her….I live in Chicago and watched Barack’s cake walk into the US Senate. All of his opponents were tripping over themselves with bizarre sex scandals. There seems to be some sort of curse on his opponents and McCain is the latest to be ensnared.

  8. Denise, because McCain is an OG, and because he experience what Bush did to him when he ran in 2000, he’s old enough to know better than to get caught out like this – whether he was “doing favors” for the telecom industry, or sleeping with Iseman.

    What the McCain camp should really gear up for is if Iseman decides to talk. If she screwed McCain, we’re going to get treated to the dirty lowdown – we’re going to learn how often she did the nasty with McCain; when and where she did the nasty with McCain, and Lord help us if Mc Cain has fetishes like Sen. David Vitter (Vitter the shitter because he liked wearing diapers), Larry Craig (meeting in the men’s room, won’t be back real soon), or Mark Foley (trolling on the Hill for young mannish tail).

    It did have the effect of knocking the Falafel Man’s “lynching” comment off the front page, though.

  9. Rikyrah, if SB does a post on the Falafel Man, he should start by talking about how quiet the Falafel Man’s dinner companion (Al Sharpton) has been on the matter.

    Last time we heard a comment like this, Don Imus was on Al Sharpton’s radio show, begging us to believe he wasn’t a bigot, while Sharpton called for him to be fired off the airwaves.

    I guess Al likes his free dinners at Sylvia’s with the Falafel Man too much to cause a fuss, while O’Reilly drinks his “M—-F—–ing” iced tea.

  10. Amazingly, MSNBC and others are currently spinning this as a good thing for McCain, with the reasoning being that “being attacked by the New York Times will shore up his support from conservatives”. They even said this was a “gift” from the NYT, the reasoning being that the paper’s endorsement of McCain had alienated the all-powerful right wing. So by that logic, McCain should send them a thank you note for outing his sleazy behavior.

  11. Lucial

    while “Americans with no authentic representation in congress” are herded into the polling booths election after election, the lobbyists and super delegates take control of the elected officials to enrich themselves. The Congress is merely a club where the powerful and the well connected dip their hands into the treasury funded by taxing Americans. The well connected institute laws that exempt them from going to jail even if they are caught red handed breaking the laws. An “average American voter “would be jailed for decades when caught doing the same thing.

  12. Chesapeake

    Nice observation, Ernesto.

    It’s a secret what’s going on behind the scenes, and who knows how this story will play at the polls; but, publicly, the republican leaders are tight. They are not condemning Senator McCain. Even Govenor Huckabee defended him.

    You may not like their politics, but the immediate conservative republican reaction (where’s Bay Buchanan, now?) is worthy of study.

  13. denise

    TPJ:

    Absolutely! McCain should have known better. I’m not defending his conduct AT ALL.

    Now, if he were a younger man, this would be a different type of story. But I’m sorry, considering his age, I’m more concerned about his err… stamina under the stress and demands of the campaign trail.

    I was only pointing out the likelihood that this story is old news to everyone except the public, and that a appropriate “response” is forthcoming. LOL

  14. Anony Mouse:

    I prefer “Captain Save-A-Ho” as opposed to Mac Daddy, cause the only reason a woman thirty-years McCain’s junior would have sex with him is to present icing on the cake for all those lobbying favors McCain did for the telecom industry.

    She sure gives new meaning to the phrase “Taking One For The Team.”

  15. Denise

    http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/Vote2008/story?id=4328520&page=1

    Again, I’m not excusing Mr. McCain’s behavior if these allegations are true. I was just pointing out that the campaign saw this particular hit coming.

    Also, I’m feeling TripLBee’s observation about Mr. Obama’s luck at being matched against sex-scandaled political opponents. It all comes down to the ability (or inability) to establish a pattern self-discipline.

  16. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to wish for. At first I had hoped that crazy Rudy would not be knocked out of the box before he could become the nominee, because I was pretty sure that even a Hillary Clinton could have trounced “America’s Mayor” without breaking a sweat. Now it looks as if poor, dumb, old John McCain will not get the nomination either. At least not if the Republicans live in any kind of a rational universe where winning is still on the table.

    So once again I’m left not knowing what to wish for. Should I wish for him to take himself out of the running in light of the new Vicki Iseman scandal? Any candidate with an IQ of 65 would now conclude that he was dead meat in the water ready for any Democrat to render him into chum in the lead up to the general election. Or should I wish for him to just soldier on spite of his disgrace – on to a humiliating defeat in November? I have to admit to favoring the second option. It would be such great fun watching Obama serve “Honest John” his privates on a plate before the laughing electorate. I would not want to be in the position of a Republican strategist right now. What’s left? Huckabee?

    I hear that the lunatic fringe of the ultra right: Rush, Hannity, Coulter, etc are all forming a posse to string up the messenger i.e. the NYT. This is pretty amusing since even wimpy Bob Schieffer admitted the “story has legs.” Yes Bob, legs, as in: the Times only broke the story they had been sitting on since December when they heard the New Republic was ready to go with a story of the Times’ foot dragging on the McCain story. Michael Isikoff of Newsweek and Michael Calderone of Politico were also chasing the Times story. How long was the NYT prepared to wait? Till November 5th?

    If the Republican leadership thinks that attacking that well known left wing subsidiary of Pravda, the NYT will work for more than one news cycle, they had better go back for another Dirty Politics 101 refresher from Uncle Karl. It looks like this time the Democrats may even be beyond the capacity of a Diebold to keep them out of the White House in ‘08. I think it may even be beyond the considerable talents of a high priced Democratic strategist to screw this one up. I hope I’m right. This election has more twists and turns in it than a Mitt Romney position paper.

    Lest you think I’m some sort of a moralist concerned with John McCain’s sexual conduct, let me assure you that I am considerably less troubled with what he did to Vicki Iseman than what he did for her. The only screwing I care about here is the screwing of the American taxpayer.

    Peace,

    Bob Boldt

  17. NuPolitico

    I’m not sure if anyone mentioned this, but doesn’t Vicki Iseman look like a younger version of his wife?

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