Today, Media Matters releases another report in its series on McCain media myths, documented fully in Free Ride. It goes to the heart of McCain's phony public persona of "do what I say, and don't look at what I do:" his cozy, long-term relationships with some of the biggest lobbyists in town, a lot of whom work directly for McCain's presidential campaign.
That's right, "the straight talking Maverick" is a myth. It's a fabrication meant to be sold by the spoonful to the masses.
To keep up this illusion, McCain needs a willing media which looks the other way. Based on recent reports of media suck-up-itude, "Sprinkles" McCain has that going for him in spades. Here's what all the fawning coverage overlooks (from the Media Matters report and Free Ride):
Even before his current campaign, the senator reached out to lobbyists in preparation for his run. A March 8, 2006, story in The Hill reported that "lobbyists say that McCain has been reaching out to K Street to strengthen his national fundraising network." A February 3, 2007, National Journal article by Peter H. Stone and James A. Barnes reported that McCain and Mitt Romney are "working overtime to line up influential allies on K Street who can deliver supporters and campaign cash." The article reported that on "January 22, David Girard-diCarlo, the chairman of Blank Rome, which is headquartered in Pennsylvania, escorted McCain to Pittsburgh and Harrisburg to meet with influential donors and fundraisers. And on January 31, the senator attended a Capitol Hill luncheon at the Monocle restaurant that drew two dozen trade association leaders and potential allies."
According to Public Citizen, McCain's campaign has more current and former lobbyist bundlers -- lobbyists who raise money by pooling donations from themselves and others -- than any other candidate....And a study by Media Matters for America has also found numerous McCain staffers or advisers who were registered to lobby Congress as of year-end 2007 or were previously lobbyists. The current or former lobbyists working for McCain include his campaign manager, his deputy campaign manager, his chief political adviser, his chief fundraiser, and the chief of staff of his Senate office.
For those keeping track, that would be campaign manager Rick Davis, deputy campaign manager Christian Ferry, senior political advisor Charlie Black, chief fundraiser Tom Loeffler, his Senate chief of staff Mark Buse, and a whole host of others we've talked about over the last few months.
Davis bragged about the many corporate contributions that McCain's team has sought from the very industries McCain is charged with overseeing and holding accountable from his perches on the Armed Services and Commerce Committees, saying that they are "very much in the friend-making business." That includes big tobacco and defense contractors. Cozy.
Unfortunately, such realistic assessments of McCain are few and far between. One rare instance came in 2000 on the Comedy Central program The Daily Show, when correspondent Steve Carell sat down with McCain aboard the Straight Talk Express in New Hampshire. "Senator," Carell asked, "how do you reconcile the fact that you are one of the most vocal critics of pork-barrel politics, and yet while you were chairman of the Commerce Committee, that committee set a record for unauthorized appropriations?" McCain looked stunned, and after an uncomfortable silence, Carell blurted out, "I'm just kidding! I don't even know what that means!" Everyone laughed. (Pages 107-108)
Politics is a dirty business, at least the way it is played in the Beltway. Pretending that McCain has clean hands when his highest-ranking advisors are shoveling the muck is both illogical and dishonest. And the media knows it. But keeping "Sprinkles" McCain happy is more important to them than ferreting out the whole truth for the public so that we can know exactly what is and is not on the table for the upcoming election cycle.
Take a look at this graphic put together by Media Matters of McCain's lobbyist ties -- and ask yourself why there has been repetitive coverage of bowling and orange juice and tears, and so little coverage of this enormous network of moneyed-lobbyist interest in the campaign of a man who is a self-styled, self-proclaimed anti-lobbyist kinda guy. Hypocrisy, much?
Especially since the media elites have known about these deep McCain/lobbyist ties since the 2000 presidential campaign.
Americans deserve the whole truth -- not just the finger-licking-rib buddy treatment that the media has been giving McCain. Hypocrisy on a signature PR issue ought to be a big story, if the media were functioning properly in its role of asking the tough questions. But, as Media Matters shows, what we've been getting is the rare glimpse of good reporting on these issues surrounded by a whole lot of fluff and nonsense. We deserve better.