[Hpn] For McCain, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Its Own Risk ~OT~

William C. Tinker wtinker@verizon.net
Wed, 20 Feb 2008 23:11:08 -0500


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For McCain, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Its Own Risk=20

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/022008Z.shtml


    By Jim Rutenberg, Marilyn W. Thompson, David D. Kirkpatrick and =
Stephen Labaton=20
    The New York Times=20

    Thursday 21 February 2008=20

    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.=20

    A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, in =
his offices and aboard 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.=20

    When news organizations reported that Mr. McCain had written letters =
to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist's clients, the former =
campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that attention =
would fall on her involvement.=20

    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.=20

    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.=20

    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.=20

    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.)=20

    Mr. McCain helped found a nonprofit group to promote his personal =
battle for tighter campaign finance rules. But he later resigned as its =
chairman after news reports disclosed that the group was tapping the =
same kinds of unlimited corporate contributions he opposed, including =
those from companies seeking his favor. He has criticized the cozy ties =
between lawmakers and lobbyists, but is relying on corporate lobbyists =
to donate their time running his presidential race and recently hired a =
lobbyist to run his Senate office.=20

    "He is essentially an honorable person," said William P. Cheshire, a =
friend of Mr. McCain who as editorial page editor of The Arizona =
Republic defended him during the Keating Five scandal. "But he can be =
imprudent."=20

    Mr. Cheshire added, "That imprudence or recklessness may be part of =
why he was not more astute about the risks he was running with this =
shady operator," Charles Keating, whose ties to Mr. McCain and four =
other lawmakers tainted them in the savings and loan debacle.=20

    During his current campaign for the Republican presidential =
nomination, Mr. McCain has played down his attacks on the corrupting =
power of money in politics, aware that the stricter regulations he =
championed are unpopular in his party. When the Senate overhauled =
lobbying and ethics rules last year, Mr. McCain was not among the =
leaders in the debate.=20

    With his nomination this year all but certain, though, he is =
reminding voters again of his record of reform. His campaign has already =
begun comparing his credentials with those of Senator Barack Obama, a =
Democratic contender who has made lobbying and ethics rules a =
centerpiece of his own pitch to voters.=20

    "I would very much like to think that I have never been a man whose =
favor can be bought," Mr. McCain wrote about his Keating experience in =
his 2002 memoir, "Worth the Fighting For." "From my earliest youth, I =
would have considered such a reputation to be the most shameful ignominy =
imaginable. Yet that is exactly how millions of Americans viewed me for =
a time, a time that I will forever consider one of the worst experiences =
of my life."=20

    A drive to expunge the stain on his reputation in time turned into a =
zeal to cleanse Washington as well. The episode taught him that =
"questions of honor are raised as much by appearances as by reality in =
politics," he wrote, "and because they incite public distrust they need =
to be addressed no less directly than we would address evidence of =
expressly illegal corruption."=20

    A Formative Scandal=20

    Mr. McCain started his career like many other aspiring politicians, =
eagerly courting the wealthy and powerful. A Vietnam war hero and Senate =
liaison for the Navy, he arrived in Arizona in 1980 after his second =
marriage, to Cindy Hensley, the heiress to a beer fortune there. He =
quickly started looking for a Congressional district where he could run. =


    Mr. Keating, a Phoenix banker and real estate developer, became an =
early sponsor and, soon, a friend. He was a man of great confidence and =
daring, Mr. McCain recalled in his memoir. "People like that appeal to =
me," he continued. "I have sometimes forgotten that wisdom and a strong =
sense of public responsibility are much more admirable qualities."=20

    During Mr. McCain's four years in the House, Mr. Keating, his family =
and his business associates contributed heavily to his political =
campaigns. The banker gave Mr. McCain free rides on his private jet, a =
violation of Congressional ethics rules (he eventually paid for the =
trips). They vacationed together in the Bahamas. And in 1986, the year =
Mr. McCain was elected to the Senate, his wife joined Mr. Keating in =
investing in an Arizona shopping mall.=20

    Mr. Keating had taken over a California thrift institution, the =
Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, and used its federally insured =
deposits to gamble on risky real estate and other investments. He =
pressed Mr. McCain and other lawmakers to help hold back federal banking =
regulators. For years, Mr. McCain complied. At Mr. Keating's request, he =
wrote several letters to regulators, introduced legislation and helped =
secure the nomination of a Keating associate to a banking regulatory =
board.=20

    By early 1987, though, the thrift was careering toward disaster. Mr. =
McCain agreed to join several senators, eventually known as the Keating =
Five, for two private meetings with regulators to urge them to ease up. =
"Why didn't I fully grasp the unusual appearance of such a meeting?" Mr. =
McCain later lamented in his memoir.=20

    When Lincoln went bankrupt in 1989 - one of the biggest collapses of =
the savings and loan crisis, costing taxpayers $3.4 billion - the =
Keating Five became infamous. The scandal sent Mr. Keating to prison and =
ended the careers of three senators, who were censured in 1991 for =
intervening. Mr. McCain, who had been a less aggressive advocate for Mr. =
Keating than the others, was reprimanded for "poor judgment" but was =
re-elected the next year.=20

    Some people involved think Mr. McCain got off too lightly. William =
Black, one of the banking regulators the senator met with, argued that =
Mrs. McCain's investment with Mr. Keating created an obvious conflict of =
interest for her husband. (Mr. McCain had said a prenuptial agreement =
divided the couple's assets.) He should not be able to "put this behind =
him," Mr. Black said. "It sullied his integrity."=20

    Mr. McCain has since described the episode as a unique humiliation. =
"If I do not repress the memory, its recollection still provokes a vague =
but real feeling that I had lost something very important," he wrote in =
his memoir. "I still wince thinking about it."=20

    A New Chosen Cause=20

    After the Republican takeover of the Senate in 1994, Mr. McCain =
decided to try to put some of the lessons he had learned into law. He =
started by attacking earmarks, the pet projects that individual =
lawmakers could insert anonymously into the fine print of giant spending =
bills, a recipe for corruption. But he quickly moved on to other =
targets, most notably political fund-raising.=20

    Mr. McCain earned the lasting animosity of many conservatives, who =
argue that his push for fund-raising restrictions trampled free speech, =
and of many of his Senate colleagues, who bristled that he was preaching =
to them so soon after his own repentance. In debates, his party's =
leaders challenged him to name a single senator he considered corrupt =
(he refused).=20

    "We used to joke that each of us was the only one eating alone in =
our caucus," said Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, who =
became Mr. McCain's partner on campaign finance efforts.=20

    Mr. McCain appeared motivated less by the usual ideas about good =
governance than by a more visceral disapproval of the gifts, meals and =
money that influence seekers shower on lawmakers, Mr. Feingold said. "It =
had to do with his sense of honor," he said. "He saw this stuff as =
cheating."=20

    Mr. McCain made loosening the grip of special interests the central =
cause of his 2000 presidential campaign, inviting scrutiny of his own =
ethics. His Republican rival, George W. Bush, accused him of "double =
talk" for soliciting campaign contributions from companies with =
interests that came before the powerful Senate commerce committee, of =
which Mr. McCain was chairman. Mr. Bush's allies called Mr. McCain =
"sanctimonious."=20

    At one point, his campaign invited scores of lobbyists to a =
fund-raiser at the Willard Hotel in Washington. While Bush supporters =
stood mocking outside, the McCain team tried to defend his integrity by =
handing the lobbyists buttons reading " McCain voted against my bill." =
Mr. McCain himself skipped the event, an act he later called "cowardly." =


    By 2002, he had succeeded in passing the McCain-Feingold Act, which =
transformed American politics by banning "soft money," the unlimited =
donations from corporations, unions and the rich that were funneled =
through the two political parties to get around previous laws.=20

    One of his efforts, though, seemed self-contradictory. In 2001, he =
helped found the nonprofit Reform Institute to promote his cause and, in =
the process, his career. It collected hundreds of thousands of dollars =
in unlimited donations from companies that lobbied the Senate commerce =
committee. Mr. McCain initially said he saw no problems with the =
financing, but he severed his ties to the institute in 2005, complaining =
of "bad publicity" after news reports of the arrangement.=20

    Like other presidential candidates, he has relied on lobbyists to =
run his campaigns. Since a cash crunch last summer, several of them - =
including his campaign manager, Rick Davis, who represented companies =
before Mr. McCain's Senate panel - have been working without pay, a gift =
that could be worth tens of thousands of dollars.=20

    In recent weeks, Mr. McCain has hired another lobbyist, Mark Buse, =
to run his Senate office. In his case, it was a round trip through the =
revolving door: Mr. Buse had directed Mr. McCain's committee staff for =
seven years before leaving in 2001 to lobby for telecommunications =
companies.=20

    Mr. McCain's friends dismiss questions about his ties to lobbyists, =
arguing that he has too much integrity to let such personal connections =
influence him.=20

    "Unless he gives you special treatment or takes legislative action =
against his own views, I don't think his personal and social =
relationships matter," said Charles Black, a friend and campaign adviser =
who has previously lobbied the senator for aviation, broadcasting and =
tobacco concerns.=20

    Concerns in a Campaign=20

    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.=20

    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.=20

    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?"=20

    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.=20

    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.=20

    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.=20

    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.=20

    "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."=20

    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.=20

    It is not clear what effect the warnings had; the associates said =
their concerns receded in the heat of the campaign.=20

    Ms. Iseman acknowledged meeting with Mr. Weaver, but disputed his =
account.=20

    "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 or his 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.=20

    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.=20

    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.=20

    "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.=20

    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.=20

    The McCain aides said the senator sided with Ms. Iseman's clients =
only when their positions hewed to his principles=20

    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.=20

    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.=20

    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.=20

    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.=20

    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.=20

    "Any hint that I might have acted to reward a supporter," he wrote, =
"would be taken as an egregious act of hypocrisy."=20



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<DIV><A =
href=3D"http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/21/us/politics/21mccain.html"=20
target=3D_blank>Go to Original</A>=20
<P><B>For McCain, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Its Own Risk</B> </P>
<P><STRONG></STRONG><STRONG><A=20
href=3D"http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/022008Z.shtml">http://www.truth=
out.org/docs_2006/022008Z.shtml</A></STRONG></P>
<P><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2></FONT><BR>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;By Jim =
Rutenberg,=20
Marilyn W. Thompson, David D. Kirkpatrick and Stephen Labaton=20
<BR>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;The New York Times </P>
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Thursday 21 February 2008=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Washington - Early in Senator John McCain's =
first run=20
for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his =
small=20
circle of advisers.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;A female lobbyist had been turning up with =
him at=20
fund-raisers, in his offices and aboard a client's corporate jet. =
Convinced the=20
relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to =
protect=20
the candidate from himself - instructing staff members to block the =
woman's=20
access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, =
several=20
people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;When news organizations reported that Mr. =
McCain had=20
written letters to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist's =
clients,=20
the former campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that =
attention=20
would fall on her involvement.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Mr. McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki =
Iseman, 40,=20
both say they never had a romantic relationship. But to his advisers, =
even the=20
appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had =
business=20
before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of =
redemption=20
and rectitude that defined his political identity.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;It had been just a decade since an official =
favor for=20
a friend with regulatory problems had nearly ended Mr. McCain's =
political career=20
by ensnaring him in the Keating Five scandal. In the years that =
followed, he=20
reinvented himself as the scourge of special interests, a crusader for =
stricter=20
ethics and campaign finance rules, a man of honor chastened by a brush =
with=20
shame.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;But the concerns about Mr. McCain's =
relationship with=20
Ms. Iseman underscored an enduring paradox of his post-Keating career. =
Even as=20
he has vowed to hold himself to the highest ethical standards, his =
confidence in=20
his own integrity has sometimes seemed to blind him to potentially =
embarrassing=20
conflicts of interest.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Mr. McCain promised, for example, never to =
fly=20
directly from Washington to Phoenix, his hometown, to avoid the =
impression of=20
self-interest because he sponsored a law that opened the route nearly a =
decade=20
ago. But like other lawmakers, he often flew on the corporate jets of =
business=20
executives seeking his support, including the media moguls Rupert =
Murdoch,=20
Michael R. Bloomberg and Lowell W. Paxson, Ms. Iseman's client. (Last =
year he=20
voted to end the practice.)=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Mr. McCain helped found a nonprofit group to =
promote=20
his personal battle for tighter campaign finance rules. But he later =
resigned as=20
its chairman after news reports disclosed that the group was tapping the =
same=20
kinds of unlimited corporate contributions he opposed, including those =
from=20
companies seeking his favor. He has criticized the cozy ties between =
lawmakers=20
and lobbyists, but is relying on corporate lobbyists to donate their =
time=20
running his presidential race and recently hired a lobbyist to run his =
Senate=20
office.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;"He is essentially an honorable person," said =
William=20
P. Cheshire, a friend of Mr. McCain who as editorial page editor of The =
Arizona=20
Republic defended him during the Keating Five scandal. "But he can be=20
imprudent."=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Mr. Cheshire added, "That imprudence or =
recklessness=20
may be part of why he was not more astute about the risks he was running =
with=20
this shady operator," Charles Keating, whose ties to Mr. McCain and four =
other=20
lawmakers tainted them in the savings and loan debacle.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;During his current campaign for the =
Republican=20
presidential nomination, Mr. McCain has played down his attacks on the=20
corrupting power of money in politics, aware that the stricter =
regulations he=20
championed are unpopular in his party. When the Senate overhauled =
lobbying and=20
ethics rules last year, Mr. McCain was not among the leaders in the =
debate.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;With his nomination this year all but =
certain,=20
though, he is reminding voters again of his record of reform. His =
campaign has=20
already begun comparing his credentials with those of Senator Barack =
Obama, a=20
Democratic contender who has made lobbying and ethics rules a =
centerpiece of his=20
own pitch to voters.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;"I would very much like to think that I have =
never=20
been a man whose favor can be bought," Mr. McCain wrote about his =
Keating=20
experience in his 2002 memoir, "Worth the Fighting For." "From my =
earliest=20
youth, I would have considered such a reputation to be the most shameful =

ignominy imaginable. Yet that is exactly how millions of Americans =
viewed me for=20
a time, a time that I will forever consider one of the worst experiences =
of my=20
life."=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;A drive to expunge the stain on his =
reputation in=20
time turned into a zeal to cleanse Washington as well. The episode =
taught him=20
that "questions of honor are raised as much by appearances as by reality =
in=20
politics," he wrote, "and because they incite public distrust they need =
to be=20
addressed no less directly than we would address evidence of expressly =
illegal=20
corruption."=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<B>A Formative Scandal</B>=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Mr. McCain started his career like many other =

aspiring politicians, eagerly courting the wealthy and powerful. A =
Vietnam war=20
hero and Senate liaison for the Navy, he arrived in Arizona in 1980 =
after his=20
second marriage, to Cindy Hensley, the heiress to a beer fortune there. =
He=20
quickly started looking for a Congressional district where he could run. =

<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Mr. Keating, a Phoenix banker and real estate =

developer, became an early sponsor and, soon, a friend. He was a man of =
great=20
confidence and daring, Mr. McCain recalled in his memoir. "People like =
that=20
appeal to me," he continued. "I have sometimes forgotten that wisdom and =
a=20
strong sense of public responsibility are much more admirable =
qualities."=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;During Mr. McCain's four years in the House, =
Mr.=20
Keating, his family and his business associates contributed heavily to =
his=20
political campaigns. The banker gave Mr. McCain free rides on his =
private jet, a=20
violation of Congressional ethics rules (he eventually paid for the =
trips). They=20
vacationed together in the Bahamas. And in 1986, the year Mr. McCain was =
elected=20
to the Senate, his wife joined Mr. Keating in investing in an Arizona =
shopping=20
mall.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Mr. Keating had taken over a California =
thrift=20
institution, the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, and used its =
federally=20
insured deposits to gamble on risky real estate and other investments. =
He=20
pressed Mr. McCain and other lawmakers to help hold back federal banking =

regulators. For years, Mr. McCain complied. At Mr. Keating's request, he =
wrote=20
several letters to regulators, introduced legislation and helped secure =
the=20
nomination of a Keating associate to a banking regulatory board.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;By early 1987, though, the thrift was =
careering=20
toward disaster. Mr. McCain agreed to join several senators, eventually =
known as=20
the Keating Five, for two private meetings with regulators to urge them =
to ease=20
up. "Why didn't I fully grasp the unusual appearance of such a meeting?" =
Mr.=20
McCain later lamented in his memoir.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;When Lincoln went bankrupt in 1989 - one of =
the=20
biggest collapses of the savings and loan crisis, costing taxpayers $3.4 =
billion=20
- the Keating Five became infamous. The scandal sent Mr. Keating to =
prison and=20
ended the careers of three senators, who were censured in 1991 for =
intervening.=20
Mr. McCain, who had been a less aggressive advocate for Mr. Keating than =
the=20
others, was reprimanded for "poor judgment" but was re-elected the next =
year.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Some people involved think Mr. McCain got off =
too=20
lightly. William Black, one of the banking regulators the senator met =
with,=20
argued that Mrs. McCain's investment with Mr. Keating created an obvious =

conflict of interest for her husband. (Mr. McCain had said a prenuptial=20
agreement divided the couple's assets.) He should not be able to "put =
this=20
behind him," Mr. Black said. "It sullied his integrity."=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Mr. McCain has since described the episode as =
a=20
unique humiliation. "If I do not repress the memory, its recollection =
still=20
provokes a vague but real feeling that I had lost something very =
important," he=20
wrote in his memoir. "I still wince thinking about it."=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<B>A New Chosen Cause</B>=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;After the Republican takeover of the Senate =
in 1994,=20
Mr. McCain decided to try to put some of the lessons he had learned into =
law. He=20
started by attacking earmarks, the pet projects that individual =
lawmakers could=20
insert anonymously into the fine print of giant spending bills, a recipe =
for=20
corruption. But he quickly moved on to other targets, most notably =
political=20
fund-raising.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Mr. McCain earned the lasting animosity of =
many=20
conservatives, who argue that his push for fund-raising restrictions =
trampled=20
free speech, and of many of his Senate colleagues, who bristled that he =
was=20
preaching to them so soon after his own repentance. In debates, his =
party's=20
leaders challenged him to name a single senator he considered corrupt =
(he=20
refused).=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;"We used to joke that each of us was the only =
one=20
eating alone in our caucus," said Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of =
Wisconsin,=20
who became Mr. McCain's partner on campaign finance efforts.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Mr. McCain appeared motivated less by the =
usual ideas=20
about good governance than by a more visceral disapproval of the gifts, =
meals=20
and money that influence seekers shower on lawmakers, Mr. Feingold said. =
"It had=20
to do with his sense of honor," he said. "He saw this stuff as =
cheating."=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Mr. McCain made loosening the grip of special =

interests the central cause of his 2000 presidential campaign, inviting =
scrutiny=20
of his own ethics. His Republican rival, George W. Bush, accused him of =
"double=20
talk" for soliciting campaign contributions from companies with =
interests that=20
came before the powerful Senate commerce committee, of which Mr. McCain =
was=20
chairman. Mr. Bush's allies called Mr. McCain "sanctimonious."=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;At one point, his campaign invited scores of=20
lobbyists to a fund-raiser at the Willard Hotel in Washington. While =
Bush=20
supporters stood mocking outside, the McCain team tried to defend his =
integrity=20
by handing the lobbyists buttons reading " McCain voted against my =
bill." Mr.=20
McCain himself skipped the event, an act he later called "cowardly."=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;By 2002, he had succeeded in passing the=20
McCain-Feingold Act, which transformed American politics by banning =
"soft=20
money," the unlimited donations from corporations, unions and the rich =
that were=20
funneled through the two political parties to get around previous laws.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;One of his efforts, though, seemed=20
self-contradictory. In 2001, he helped found the nonprofit Reform =
Institute to=20
promote his cause and, in the process, his career. It collected hundreds =
of=20
thousands of dollars in unlimited donations from companies that lobbied =
the=20
Senate commerce committee. Mr. McCain initially said he saw no problems =
with the=20
financing, but he severed his ties to the institute in 2005, complaining =
of "bad=20
publicity" after news reports of the arrangement.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Like other presidential candidates, he has =
relied on=20
lobbyists to run his campaigns. Since a cash crunch last summer, several =
of them=20
- including his campaign manager, Rick Davis, who represented companies =
before=20
Mr. McCain's Senate panel - have been working without pay, a gift that =
could be=20
worth tens of thousands of dollars.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;In recent weeks, Mr. McCain has hired another =

lobbyist, Mark Buse, to run his Senate office. In his case, it was a =
round trip=20
through the revolving door: Mr. Buse had directed Mr. McCain's committee =
staff=20
for seven years before leaving in 2001 to lobby for telecommunications=20
companies.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Mr. McCain's friends dismiss questions about =
his ties=20
to lobbyists, arguing that he has too much integrity to let such =
personal=20
connections influence him.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;"Unless he gives you special treatment or =
takes=20
legislative action against his own views, I don't think his personal and =
social=20
relationships matter," said Charles Black, a friend and campaign adviser =
who has=20
previously lobbied the senator for aviation, broadcasting and tobacco =
concerns.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<B>Concerns in a Campaign</B>=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Mr. McCain's confidence in his ability to =
distinguish=20
personal friendships from compromising connections was at the center of=20
questions advisers raised about Ms. Iseman.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;The lobbyist, a partner at the firm Alcalde =
&amp;=20
Fay, represented telecommunications companies for whom Mr. McCain's =
commerce=20
committee was pivotal. Her clients contributed tens of thousands of =
dollars to=20
his campaigns.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Mr. Black said Mr. McCain and Ms. Iseman were =
friends=20
and nothing more. But in 1999 she began showing up so frequently in his =
offices=20
and at campaign events that staff members took notice. One recalled =
asking, "Why=20
is she always around?"=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;That February, Mr. McCain and Ms. Iseman =
attended a=20
small fund-raising dinner with several clients at the Miami-area home of =
a=20
cruise-line executive and then flew back to Washington along with a =
campaign=20
aide on the corporate jet of one of her clients, Paxson Communications. =
By then,=20
according to two former McCain associates, some of the senator's =
advisers had=20
grown so concerned that the relationship had become romantic that they =
took=20
steps to intervene.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;A former campaign adviser described being =
instructed=20
to keep Ms. Iseman away from the senator at public events, while a =
Senate aide=20
recalled plans to limit Ms. Iseman's access to his offices.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;In interviews, the two former associates said =
they=20
joined in a series of confrontations with Mr. McCain, warning him that =
he was=20
risking his campaign and career. Both said Mr. McCain acknowledged =
behaving=20
inappropriately and pledged to keep his distance from Ms. Iseman. The =
two=20
associates, who said they had become disillusioned with the senator, =
spoke=20
independently of each other and provided details that were corroborated =
by=20
others.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Separately, a top McCain aide met with Ms. =
Iseman at=20
Union Station in Washington to ask her to stay away from the senator. =
John=20
Weaver, a former top strategist and now an informal campaign adviser, =
said in an=20
e-mail message that he arranged the meeting after "a discussion among =
the=20
campaign leadership" about her.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;"Our political messaging during that time =
period=20
centered around taking on the special interests and placing the nation's =

interests before either personal or special interest," Mr. Weaver =
continued.=20
"Ms. Iseman's involvement in the campaign, it was felt by us, could =
undermine=20
that effort."=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Mr. Weaver added that the brief conversation =
was only=20
about "her conduct and what she allegedly had told people, which made =
its way=20
back to us." He declined to elaborate.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;It is not clear what effect the warnings had; =
the=20
associates said their concerns receded in the heat of the campaign.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Ms. Iseman acknowledged meeting with Mr. =
Weaver, but=20
disputed his account.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;"I never discussed with him alleged things I =
had=20
=91told people,' that had made their way =91back to' him," she wrote in =
an e-mail=20
message. She said she never received special treatment from Mr. McCain =
or his=20
office.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Mr. McCain said that the relationship was not =

romantic and that he never showed favoritism to Ms. Iseman or her =
clients. "I=20
have never betrayed the public trust by doing anything like that," he =
said. He=20
made the statements in a call to Bill Keller, the executive editor of =
The New=20
York Times, to complain about the paper's inquiries.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;The senator declined repeated interview =
requests,=20
beginning in December. He also would not comment about the assertions =
that he=20
had been confronted about Ms. Iseman, Mr. Black said Wednesday.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Mr. Davis and Mark Salter, Mr. McCain's top=20
strategists in both of his presidential campaigns, disputed accounts =
from the=20
former associates and aides and said they did not discuss Ms. Iseman =
with the=20
senator or colleagues.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;"I never had any good reason to think that =
the=20
relationship was anything other than professional, a friendly =
professional=20
relationship," Mr. Salter said in an interview.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;He and Mr. Davis also said Mr. McCain had =
frequently=20
denied requests from Ms. Iseman and the companies she represented. In =
2006, Mr.=20
McCain sought to break up cable subscription packages, which some of her =
clients=20
opposed. And his proposals for satellite distribution of local =
television=20
programs fell short of her clients' hopes.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;The McCain aides said the senator sided with =
Ms.=20
Iseman's clients only when their positions hewed to his principles=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;A champion of deregulation, Mr. McCain wrote =
letters=20
in 1998 and 1999 to the Federal Communications Commission urging it to =
uphold=20
marketing agreements allowing a television company to control two =
stations in=20
the same city, a crucial issue for Glencairn Ltd., one of Ms. Iseman's =
clients.=20
He introduced a bill to create tax incentives for minority ownership of=20
stations; Ms. Iseman represented several businesses seeking such a =
program. And=20
he twice tried to advance legislation that would permit a company to =
control=20
television stations in overlapping markets, an important issue for =
Paxson.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;In late 1999, Ms. Iseman asked Mr. McCain's =
staff to=20
send a letter to the commission to help Paxson, now Ion Media Networks, =
on=20
another matter. Mr. Paxson was impatient for F.C.C. approval of a =
television=20
deal, and Ms. Iseman acknowledged in an e-mail message to The Times that =
she had=20
sent to Mr. McCain's staff information for drafting a letter urging a =
swift=20
decision.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Mr. McCain complied. He sent two letters to =
the=20
commission, drawing a rare rebuke for interference from its chairman. In =
an=20
embarrassing turn for the campaign, news reports invoked the Keating =
scandal,=20
once again raising questions about intervening for a patron.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Mr. McCain's aides released all of his =
letters to the=20
F.C.C. to dispel accusations of favoritism, and aides said the campaign =
had=20
properly accounted for four trips on the Paxson plane. But the campaign =
did not=20
report the flight with Ms. Iseman. Mr. McCain's advisers say he was not =
required=20
to disclose the flight, but ethics lawyers dispute that.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Recalling the Paxson episode in his memoir, =
Mr.=20
McCain said he was merely trying to push along a slow-moving =
bureaucracy, but=20
added that he was not surprised by the criticism given his history.=20
<P>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;"Any hint that I might have acted to reward a =

supporter," he wrote, "would be taken as an egregious act of hypocrisy." =

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