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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

That’s ‘Former Lobbyist’ to you

The Obama campaign has been pushing a connection between John McCain and lobbyists — as in saying that McCain has them working on his campaign. This ad, for instance, claims that “John McCain’s chief adviser lobbies for oil companies” and his “campaign manager lobbies for corporations outsourcing American jobs.” But neither of those campaign staffers are currently lobbyists – a McCain campaign conflict-of-interest policy doesn’t allow it.

The ad refers to campaign manager Rick Davis, who formerly lobbied for telecommunications companies and Airborne Express. Senior adviser Charlie Black was chairman of the lobbying firm BKSH & Associates, but he stepped down from the post May 1 to work for McCain. That same month the McCain camp announced a new policy that no campaign staffers could be currently registered lobbyists. Obama’s ad should have used the past tense. Those are former lobbyists.

The ad includes another favorite theme of the Obama campaign, charging that Davis “lobbies for corporations outsourcing American jobs.” But the campaign’s support for the claim is awfully thin — no matter what verb tense is used. Davis’ clients included SBC and Verizon, and the Obama camp points to news articles that say both companies have set up shop in India. Davis isn’t mentioned, nor is any other lobbyist. He may have lobbied for companies that sent some jobs abroad, but the same could be said of any number of lobbyists who worked for any number of American corporations.

Working lobbyists are allowed to be “volunteers” on McCain’s campaign, however, as well as Obama’s. Bill Timmons, a legendary Washington lobbyist, was just tapped to work on a study for McCain’s transition team, according to Time magazine. In May, The Washington Post reported that the co-director of Obama’s campaign in Puerto Rico was a federal lobbyist; spokesman Bill Burton said that person was a volunteer.