Open Letter to John McCain's Campaign

05/25/2011 12:30 pm ET

I read with interest the news reports of your campaign's decision to vet all the past associations, work, and conflicts of interest of your staff. As you may know, Campaign Money Watch has been increasingly concerned about the number of lobbyists working on and raising money for your presidential bid, the conflicts of interest they pose, and your retreat from supporting comprehensive reform that cuts the direct ties between special interests and candidates.

With 115 lobbyists raising money for or staffing your campaign, we believe that last weekend's revelations that two staff members of the campaign promoted the military junta in Myanmar are just the tip of the iceberg.

If you are interested in cleaning house at the McCain campaign, we urge you to start with Charlie Black, Tom Loeffler, and Peter Madigan.

As you will soon find out when these three fill out their forms, they have represented unconscionable foreign interests. Mr. Black and his firm have lobbied for Philippines's President Ferdinand Marcos, strongman Mobuto Sese Seko of Zaire, Mohamed Siad Barre of Somali, "rebel terrorist" Jonas Savimbi of Angola, and several other unsavory foreign clients. Mr. Loeffler and his firm have made approximately $11 million in their contracts representing the Saudi Arabian government. Mr. Madigan represented the government of the United Arab Emirates in a class action suit regarding the enslavement of children as camel jockeys.

Your vetting process will turn up many more conflicts of interest. For example, there have been widely reported connections between several lobbyists who serve as fundraisers and staff for your campaign and Airbus's U.S. affiliate when they secured a $35 billion Air Force contract. You have received more in campaign donations from executives of this Airbus affiliate, EADS, than any other candidate. In addition, your campaign manager, Rick Davis, has taken on lobbying and public relations work that has raised serious questions about conflicts of interest.

We remain concerned about your retreat from previously supporting public financing legislation at the national level. That you have built a campaign relying on lobbyists to staff it and raise money for it is a clear signal to us that reforming business-as-usual politics and the pay-to-play culture in Washington is a very low priority for the Senator if he is elected. We hope this will change.

We are encouraged that you have begun to correct this appearance with a thorough review of all those staffing for Sen. McCain's campaign. As an immediate step, you ought to immediately remove Messrs. Black, Loeffler, and Madigan, and extend your review to those you are depending upon to raise money for the campaign.


David Donnelly

Director, Campaign Money Watch