“It’s a different time, and we have a different set of rules out there in the way the press covers things,” said Ron Kaufman, a Republican lobbyist who supports McCain. “We have to adjust, and we should. It’s not about us; it’s about him.”
Still, McCain’s tardy concern about lobbyists in his campaign and the strikingly public enforcement of the new policy has left many supporters bruised and sent others into hiding.
When two of McCain’s part-time lobbyist supporters were contacted by Politico this week, both said they had filled out their compliance forms and assumed they were in the clear. But neither wanted to go on the record and risk calling attention to themselves, either.
“The McCain folks seem confused. They’ve created an issue for Obama, and it strikes me as mindless politics to start eating your own like this. Not every lobbyist is Jack Abramoff,” said one Republican operative who requested anonymity to speak frankly.
Meanwhile, lobbyists who help raise money appear to be able to keep their day jobs as long as they don’t have an official title and they don’t lobby McCain’s Senate office on any issue.
“I frankly don’t understand the policy, and what parts of it I do understand actually don’t make sense,” said Jan Baran, a Republican campaign finance legal expert. “Even though someone has been a lobbyist for the last 30 years, if they are not a lobbyist for the next five months, they are OK for the campaign?”
But perhaps the greatest ironies to emerge from McCain’s lobbyist roundup are the people who are enforcing and defending it.
They are campaign manager Rick Davis, who in 2006 took a leave from his lobbying firm, Davis Manafort & Freedman, but whose name is still a big draw on its shingle; and chief political adviser Charlie Black, founder of another of Washington’s biggest lobbying houses.