John McCain has a new problem.
The Government Accountability Office's report today that found errors in the awarding of an Air Force contract sheds new light on McCain's intervention in awarding of that contract to Airbus -- which hired seven lobbyists who have been helping McCain raise money and run for President.
Here's the background. Boeing and Airbus and Airbus' partners were competing for a contract worth at least $40 billion and perhaps as much as $100 billion to builder refueling tanker jets for the Air Force. Sen. McCain, whose history with Boeing led to the Air Force scuttling an earlier award on this contract, intervened twice with the Air Force to help Airbus' bid.
In one letter (pdf) written to the Secretary of the Air Force on September 6, 2006, McCain wrote that he was miffed that he had heard about bidding requirements from "third-parties," and then went on to argue vigorously against the offending requirements. It's an open secret that McCain's campaign has seven lobbyists from Airbus and their US affiliate working to raise money and staff his campaign.
Now we know that the Air Force's bidding process was flawed when it awarded the contract to Airbus and its partners over Boeing. The three-page short report (pdf) the GAO issued today says as much. But there's a longer, 69-page version that requires redaction to protect against the unauthorized leak of classified information. When that report is prepared, it will be interesting to note if any of the bidding process flaws were ones that McCain wrote about when he intervened.
In other words, we know some new information, but more is to come. Specifically, can John McCain's well-documented intervention to help Airbus, or the role that lobbyists for Airbus now helping McCain's campaign, be identified as reasons for the flaws in this process?
On June 6th my organization, Campaign Money Watch issued a fact sheet with analysis that U.S. employees of Airbus' parent, European Aeronautic Defense and Space, had donated more money to McCain than any other politician. Two of the seven Airbus lobbyists who went on to help with McCain's presidential bid -- Tom Loeffler and Kirk Blalock -- have both raised at least $250,000 for the McCain campaign.
In addition, we also ran a television ad detailing McCain's involvement in the Airbus deal. While we wait for more information from GAO, sit back and review what we do know: