By Matthew Mosk and Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, May 23, 2008
Charles R. Black Jr., the senior adviser to Republican John McCain whose work for foreign dictators has led Democrats to call for his ouster, is not the only lobbyist in the family volunteering on the senator from Arizona's presidential campaign.
His wife, Judy Black, is a national co-chair of the fundraising group "Women for McCain," and she has a vibrant lobbying practice that includes a foreign client and several companies with business before the Senate Commerce Committee, where McCain is a senior member.
Judy Black works at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, a firm that earned $12.9 million in lobbying fees last year. She is listed as an agent of Dubai Aerospace Enterprises, whose partners include the government of Dubai, according to forms filed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Since 2004, she has also represented telecomunications companies AT&T and Global Crossing Ltd., which have matters before the Commerce Committee.
At one point on the campaign trail, Charles Black joked with reporters that deciding to leave behind his lucrative lobbying practice and volunteer full time for McCain left him to seek an allowance from his wife.
The roles assumed by Judy Black as campaign volunteer and lobbyist highlight the difficulties McCain faces as he tries to eliminate the impression that their campaign work is also aimed at helping clients.
Last week, McCain established strict rules for lobbyists trying to help him reach the White House, in an effort to defuse the revelation that he had top advisers working for unsavory foreign clients.
The rules addressed more than just those doing work for foreign governments. McCain's new policy also prohibited part-time volunteers such as Judy Black from lobbying him or his staff while volunteering for the campaign. It also required lobbyists to disclose their clients to the campaign.
Judy and Charles Black have complied with the policies, according to a senior McCain campaign aide who requested anonymity because he is not permitted to make public comments. Judy Black is one of "hundreds of people" who are both lobbyists and volunteers, the spokesman said.
Judy Black did not return messages seeking comment.
In October, she helped host a tea in honor of McCain's mother, wife and two daughters at the home of Lea Berman, the wife of Wayne Berman, another lobbyist advising McCain.
On McCain's Web site, she has co-signed a letter explaining the goals of Women for McCain. "Like most of you, we have many roles," it says. "Wife, mother, daughter, single mom, widow, businesswoman, volunteer, multi-tasker and churchgoer. Balancing all of that is a challenge . . . We believe John McCain addresses all the things that really matter to us."
Judy Black is listed as a "Trailblazer" for McCain, meaning she has raised more than $100,000 for his bid, according to the group Public Citizen.
There is no way to know whether her efforts on behalf of McCain's campaign will ultimately serve the interests of clients who could need his help, either as president, or as a high-ranking member of the Commerce Committee, which oversees the telecom industry and the Federal Communications Commission.
McCain has supported telecom industry-backed legislation, particularly during his second stint as committee chairman from 2003 through 2005. His efforts to eliminate taxes and regulations on telecommunications services won him praise from industry executives.
Charles and Judy Black have deep Republican ties. She worked in the Reagan administration before registering as a lobbyist in 1988, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The Wall Street Journal asked Charles Black last week whether his wife's lobbying creates a possible conflict of interest. "That is utter nonsense," he said. "My wife has never gotten a client from her relationship with me."
He was a pioneer of the revolving door between campaign consulting and lobbying, having served as a senior adviser on President Ronald Reagan's reelection campaign before returning to K Street. His clients, as often as not, were foreign leaders eager to burnish their reputations.
In addition to Jonas Savimbi of Angola, Black and his partners were registered foreign agents for a remarkable collection of U.S.-backed foreign leaders whose human rights records were sometimes harshly criticized, even as American conservatives embraced their opposition to communism. They included Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire, Nigerian Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and Somali President Mohamed Siad Barre.
Research editors Alice Crites and Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.