From The New York Times:
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.
A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on 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.
Mr. McCain’s confidence in his ability to distinguish personal friendships from compromising connections was at the center of questions advisers raised about Ms. [Vicki] Iseman.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.
Okay, kids, we don’t know for sure what really went on as far as a romantic relationship. Excuse me a moment….. Sorry about the delay. We can check out The Boston Globe of January 5, 2000 to see if anything hinky was going on:
Days before Senator John McCain joined hands with Senator Bill Bradley last month to decry the noxious influence of special interest campaign donors, McCain pressured the Federal Communications Commission to vote on an issue that cleared the way for a major contributor to his presidential campaign to buy a Pittsburgh television station.
McCain, in his bluntly worded Dec. 10 letter to the FCC, did not urge a vote favoring the contributor, Paxson Communications. But he acted at the request of the company’s lobbyist, during a period when he used Paxson’s corporate jet four times to travel to campaign events – where he almost always attacks monied special interests.
McCain’s intervention in the case drew a speedy, scolding response from William E. Kennard, the FCC chairman, who deemed the Senator’s letter ”highly unusual” and suggested it was inappropriate. The Senate Commerce Committee, which McCain heads, oversees the FCC.
A spokesman for the senator, noting that McCain often sees the FCC deliberative process as molasses-like, said there was no connection between Paxson’s political support for McCain – $20,000 in two concentrated doses from Paxson and its law firm – and his intercession with the FCC.
But McCain’s close ties to Paxson were abundantly clear on the key dates surrounding the FCC decision. The day before he sent the Dec. 10 letter, McCain used Paxson’s jet for a trip from New York to Florida. The day after the letter, he took the company jet from Florida to Washington. The campaign reimbursed the company at first-class airfare rates – well below the actual cost of the charters.
The Globe was told about McCain’s intercession on the Paxson case in the course of preparing an article about a stinging rebuke McCain sent to Kennard of the FCC last May 12, accusing the FCC of bias toward SBC Communications and Ameritech, two regional Bell operating companies that were seeking to merge.
The night before McCain sent that letter, SBC’s Washington lobbyist held a fund-raising dinner for McCain that raised close to $20,000 for his campaign. On March 30, Ameritech’s chairman cohosted another fund-raiser at which McCain raised $88,000. In addition, the two companies also funneled $10,000 to McCain’s campaign from their political action committee.
McCain’s insistent urging that the FCC vote on the Pittsburgh issue had the effect – if not the intent – of benefiting Paxson, a West Palm Beach, Fla., network of 73 family-oriented stations and the nation’s largest owner of independent television stations. Through the end of September, Paxson’s top officers and their family members – and even the personal assistant to the wife of the company’s founder, Lowell W. Paxson – contributed $12,000 to McCain. In 1998, Paxson officials gave $9,000 to McCain.
And in July, as Paxson lobbyists were asking members of Congress to exert pressure on the FCC, 13 members of Paxson’s law firm, Dow, Lohnes & Albertson, contributed more than $8,000 to McCain on a single day, according to campaign finance records.
Sometime between McCain’s first letter on Nov. 17 and his more insistent letter on Dec. 10, Paxson made its four-engine jet available to ferry McCain and his entourage from New Hampshire to Washington on Dec. 3, a day after McCain declared in a New Hampshire appearance [...]
Though McCain’s committee has oversight of the FCC, there is no evidence that his May criticism affected the FCC’s decision to allow the mammoth SBC merger. Two weeks later, however, McCain filed legislation to strip the agency of its say in telecommunications mergers.
But on the Pittsburgh issue, officials familiar with the decision said McCain’s involvement was more problematic.
The swing vote in the 3-2 decision was cast by Susan Ness, one of three Democrats on the five-member FCC, who joined the two Republicans in approving the sale. President Clinton last July nominated Neff (sic) for a second five-year term, but her confirmation is up to McCain’s committee.
The issue, which the FCC wrestled with for nearly three years, was one of its most complex involving a license transfer. WQED, the Pittsburg public broadcasting outlet, wanted to sell the license for its sister station, WQEX, to Cornerstone TeleVision, a religious broadcaster that owns Channel 40 in Pittsburgh.
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Cornerstone, in turn, would sell its license to Paxson, with Cornerstone and WQED splitting the $35 million Paxson had agreed to pay. Pittsburgh has been the only one of the top 20 television markets without a Paxson station.
While the FCC has never turned down a local market license transfer, the Pittsburgh case was almost without precedent: It involved passing a noncommercial license held by a public television station to a commercial operator. In Pittsburgh, there was substantial local opposition.
Against that backdrop, McCain noted in his Dec. 10 letter that the commission had apparently ignored his Nov. 17 request that the FCC vote on the transfer on Dec. 15. He asked that each of the five members ”advise me, in writing, no later than close of business on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 1999, whether you have already acted upon these applications. … ”If your answer to the latter question is no, please state further whether you will, or will not, be prepared to act on these applications at the open meeting on Dec. 15. If your answer to both of the preceding questions is no, please explain why,” McCain wrote.
As he had in his earlier letter, McCain emphasized he was not suggesting how the commission vote, only that it vote. But within the agency, according to sources, his letters were widely interpreted to favor the complicated transfer.
Well, there you have it, kids. Judge for yourselves!