McCain draws heavy campaign donations from lobbyists
By Michael Luo and Sarah Wheaton
Senator John McCain has staked his campaign for the presidency in large part on his reputation as a reformer intent on curbing the influence of money in politics.
But an examination by The New York Times of a list of 106 elite fund-raisers who have brought in more than $100,000 each for McCain found that about a sixth of his money collectors are lobbyists.
The list of "bundlers" of campaign contributions was released Friday by the McCain campaign.
The sizable number of lobbyists - who are outnumbered on the list only by those working in the financial services industry - offers another example of the delicate balancing act that McCain, the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, is having to strike as he campaigns for the presidency and seeks to maintain his reputation as a reformer.
The campaign's disclosure of its top bundlers was part of its efforts to furnish a sense of financial transparency to the public, in keeping with McCain's past focus on regulating campaign finance and criticism of the influence of special interests in Washington.
But McCain, of Arizona, has drawn scrutiny for the fact that many of his top advisers hail from lobbying firms in Washington, including Rick Davis, his campaign manager, and Charles Black, a senior adviser who only recently stepped down as chairman of his lobbying firm to avoid accusations of a conflict of interest.
McCain has steadfastly insisted that he does not give preferential treatment to those lobbying him, even if they happen to be close friends. Although Senator Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat who could become McCain's general election opponent, has made a point of refusing to accept money from federally registered lobbyists, McCain has continued to collect cash from them and allow them to bundle campaign contributions. In his defense, his supporters argue that McCain has a record of independence and has, in fact, often clashed with corporate interests over the years.
But the potential for conflicts of interest are obvious. Several of McCain's top fund-raisers, for example, lobby for the telecommunications industry, which regularly does business before the Senate Commerce Committee, where McCain is a senior member and once served as chairman.
Kirk Blalock, of the lobbying firm Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock, leads McCain's young professional group and has raised more than $250,000 for him. Blalock's clients include Sprint Nextel and Viacom.
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