Early on Tuesday, Barack Obama's presidential campaign launched an ad in Michigan pointing out that, despite assurances that he only purchased domestic, three of John McCain's 13 cars were foreign-made.
The spot was designed to paint McCain as both removed from his straight-talking reputation and not a true champion of the domestic auto industry.
If that is the case, however, the Obama campaign left a far more effective salvo lying on the table. Not only does McCain buy foreign. Several high-ranking members of his campaign and fundraising team have earned nearly $2.4 million lobbying on behalf of foreign auto manufacturers.
According to the non-partisan Campaign Money Watch, John Green, McCain's congressional liaison, earned $130,000 to lobby on behalf of the Association of International Car Manufacturers in 2007 and 2008. Susan Nelson, the Senator's finance director, made $460,000 lobbying for Toyota from 2005 to 2007. Tom Loeffler, the campaign's former finance chair (and McCain bundler) made $660,000 lobbying for Toyota during that same time period. While Josephine Cooper and David Vennett -- each fundraisers for the campaign -- have both worked as Toyota's in-house lobbyists since 2004.
Meanwhile, Kristen Gullot, who fundraises for McCain and serves on his steering committee of women, made $840,000 lobbying for Toyota from 2005 through 2008. And
Susan Molinari, another member of the steering committee of women for McCain, made $300,000 lobbying for Hyundai in 2001 and 2002.
"When John McCain tells Michigan voters that their jobs aren't coming back, he's apparently speaking with inside information," said David Donnelly, director of Campaign Money Watch. "He is receiving fundraising help and advice from a half dozen lobbyists who have also made millions working for foreign car manufacturers."
All of the entities that these advisers and aides lobbied for were U.S. subsidiaries of foreign manufacturers. And both of these companies have thousands of American-based employees. In all likelihood, McCain's cars were built in the United States and not overseas. But domestic car companies, and the workers they employ, are naturally skittish of the foreign competition. And as the Obama campaign signaled this morning, they will take advantage of any potential to shift votes in Michigan. As such, it would not be a huge surprise to see the Illinois Democrat point out the lobbyist connections that McCain has to these foreign producers.