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The Anti-Lobbyist, Advised by Lobbyists
McCain's top fundraising official is former congressman Tom Loeffler (R-Tex.), who heads a lobbying law firm called the Loeffler Group. He has counseled the Saudis as well as Southwest Airlines, AT&T, Toyota and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.
Public Citizen, a group that monitors campaign fundraising, has found that McCain has more bundlers -- people who gather checks from networks of friends and associates -- from the lobbying community than any other presidential candidate from either party.
By the group's current count, McCain has at least 59 federal lobbyists raising money for his campaign, compared with 33 working for Republican Rudolph W. Giuliani and 19 working for Democrat Clinton.
"The potential harm is that should Senator McCain become elected, those people will have a very close relationship with the McCain White House," Sloan said. "[That] would be very helpful for their clients, and that would give them a leg up on everybody else."
Of all the lobbyists involved in the McCain campaign, the most prominent is Black, who has made a lucrative career of shuttling back and forth between presidential politics and big-time Washington lobbying. He has worked for the campaigns of former congressman Jack Kemp (N.Y.), former president George H.W. Bush and former senators Phil Gramm (Tex.) and Robert J. Dole (Kan.), all Republicans.
"I've spent a fair amount of my life as a lobbyist, but I've spent a majority of my adult life running Republican political campaigns," Black, 60, said.
His relationship with McCain, for whom he is a senior adviser, goes back more than two decades, from the time McCain first came to Washington. They got to know each other well during Gramm's 1996 presidential run; Gramm, now an investment banker, is a major supporter and adviser to McCain.
But even as Black provides a private voice and a public face for McCain, he also leads his lobbying firm, which offers corporate interests and foreign governments the promise of access to the most powerful lawmakers. Some of those companies have interests before the Senate and, in particular, the Commerce Committee, of which McCain is a member.
Black said he does a lot of his work by telephone from McCain's Straight Talk Express bus.
He said, however, the combination now requires that he work on weekends, which means 80- or even 90-hour weeks. If McCain were to ask him to step up his commitment to the campaign during the general-election battle, Black said he would take a leave or a reduced salary from BKSH and devote himself to electing McCain president.
McCain has long sought to defend his associations with lobbyists, stressing that friendships with them do not influence his independent judgment when it comes to legislative action. In comments to reporters yesterday, he acknowledged those friendships.
"I have many friends who represent various interests, ranging from the firemen to the police to senior citizens to various interests, particularly before my committee," McCain said. "The question is . . . do they have excess or unwarranted influence? And certainly no one ever has in my conduct of my public life and conduct of my legislative agenda."
Staff writer Glenn Kessler, research editor Alice Crites and washingtonpost.com staff writer Chris Cillizza contributed to this report.