McCain's ethics challenged by NY Times

February 21, 2008 5:35:41 AM PST
John McCain's campaign angrily denied a story in the New York Times Wednesday that questioned his ethics, specifically his personal friendship with a female Washington lobbyist whose clients had business with the Senate committee McCain helped lead. His staff is reportedly worried about an appearance of a conflict of interest.

Eyewitness News reporter Nina Pineda has the story.

Two former aides who are no longer in the McCain camp are the ones who reportedly spoke to the New York Times. The former staffers say they confronted the lobbyist and told the presidential candidate they wanted to protect him from himself. They believed the relationship had become romantic, which is a claim both Senator McCain and the lobbyist denies.

The New York Times is drawing sharp criticism from McCain's campaign for unearthing an eight-year-old insinuation that may shed light on the GOP front-runner's ethics.

The article claims that during McCain's run for president in 2000, he had to warned away from female lobbyist Vicki Iseman because some of his close advisors were worried about the appearance of impropriety.

The then-40-year-old Iseman represented in the communications industry, and McCain had supported some of her causes. He wrote letters on her behalf to the FCC, and he was rebuked for interference by the commission's chairman.

But it was when Iseman began showing up near the senator at events and dinners that McCain's advisors moved to confront Iseman. They warned her to stay away and advised McCain to steer clear of anything that appeared less than professional.

McCain's campaign responded Wednesday night, blasting the New York Times for lowering its standards.

Here is the full statement from McCain Communications Director Jill Hazelbaker:

"It is a shame that the New York Times has lowered its standards to engage in a hit and run smear campaign. John McCain has a 24-year record of serving our country with honor and integrity. He has never violated the public trust, never done favors for special interests or lobbyists, and he will not allow a smear campaign to distract from the issues at stake in this election.

"Americans are sick and tired of this kind of gutter politics, and there is nothing in this story to suggest that John McCain has ever violated the principles that have guided his career."

McCain plans talk more about this issue during a news conference Thursday.