Who Wrote the Letters?

In today’s Times, Stephen Labaton has a follow-up to the McCain lobbyist sex/corruption story by delving further into the letters McCain sent on behalf of Paxson Communications, a client of lobbyist Vicki Iseman.

The Washington Post reported Friday on its Web site that Mr. Paxson acknowledged in an interview that he had met with Mr. McCain to discuss the letters before they were sent and that Ms. Iseman was probably at the meeting.

In three interviews with The Times since December, Mr. Paxson has provided varying accounts about the letters. In the first, he said Ms. Iseman was involved in the drafting of them and had lobbied Mr. McCain. He later said he could not recall who had been involved.

Paxson told the Times different things, but there’s a big difference between not remembering who was involved and recounting a scenario where Iseman lobbied McCain and wrote the letters he sent to the FCC. That is, it’s easy for someone to say they don’t remember what happened, but when that comes after telling the Times that Iseman had authored the letters McCain sent to the FCC, it doesn’t really pass the smell test.

What’s particularly telling about this aspect of Iseman’s relationship with McCain is that it is the archetypal example of how lobbyists corrupt the process of governance. Paxson, a McCain campaign donor, hired a lobbyist to lobby McCain on issues concerning his business interests that were germane to a committee McCain chaired. That lobbyist had a close relationship with McCain and ended up authoring a letter McCain sent on behalf of Paxson and another telecommunications company to the agency that regulates Paxson’s business. That McCain put his name on the bottom of a letter written by a lobbyist on behalf of her employer tells you everything you need to know about McCain’s ethical compass.

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