Convention Chief Resigns Over His Firm's Work for Burma

Newsweek's Michael Isikoff talks about the latest developments since a story he wrote about McCain's choice to manage the GOP convention this summer-- lobbyist Doug Goodyear, whose firm once represented Burma's repressive regime.
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By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum and Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, May 11, 2008

The veteran political operative chosen by Sen. John McCain to run the Republican National Convention this summer abruptly resigned yesterday after Newsweek reported that the lobbying and public relations firm he heads once represented the Burmese government.

Doug Goodyear, the chief executive and co-founder of DCI Group, said in a statement that he resigned the post "so as not to become a distraction in this campaign."

DCI, a well-known Republican firm that provides lobbying services mostly for corporate interests, was paid $348,000 in 2002 and 2003 to represent Burma's junta, Newsweek reported on its Web site yesterday.

"It was our only foreign representation, it was for a short tenure, and it was six years ago," Newsweek quoted Goodyear as saying.

News outlets including The Washington Post have previously reported on the firm's links to Burma's military leaders, including that it arranged meetings with White House officials to press the generals' agenda, but the ties gained new relevance in the wake of two recent developments.

The first was the McCain campaign's choice earlier this month of Goodyear as convention coordinator, citing his management skill. The second was the junta's response to Tropical Cyclone Nargis's ravaging of Burma, also called Myanmar, where as many as 100,000 people are dead or missing from the storm.

The Burmese government has drawn international condemnation for blocking international relief organizations from distributing much-needed food and supplies to the more than 1 million residents left homeless by the storm.

Goodyear told Newsweek that the junta's handling of the cyclone crisis has been "reprehensible."

Goodyear, a resident of McCain's home state of Arizona, co-founded DCI Group in 1996 after being active in politics, according to the firm's Web site. He was political director for the Colorado GOP in the 1980s and managed Pete Dawkins's unsuccessful 1988 U.S. Senate campaign in New Jersey.

As national convention coordinator, Goodyear served as a liaison between the McCain campaign and the national party.

Matt Burns, a convention spokesman, said the convention staff will proceed with mapping out details of the event, to run Sept. 1-4 in St. Paul, Minn.

"We're going to have a successful convention in September," Burns said. "We look forward to it, and planning is moving forward, as it has been for more than a year."

Maria Cino, who served as deputy transportation secretary to President Bush, is the president and chief of the convention.

McCain has been attacked by rivals for allowing his campaign to be run by lobbyists and former lobbyists, despite his own rhetoric against special interests. His inner circle of staffers include senior adviser Charles Black, who recently left his lobbying firm to join the campaign full time, and campaign manager Rick Davis, who also had once been a registered lobbyist.

DCI's many clients over the years have included General Motors, Exxon Mobil, Verizon and Morgan Stanley, according to federal disclosure forms. The firm is expert in targeting voters and persuading them to contact their elected officials, a mechanism called grass-roots lobbying. But it has also lobbied lawmakers directly and has registered to lobby for a long list of clients at the federal level.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company