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Campaign Tightens Rules on Lobbying for companies such as Royal Dutch Shell Plc

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Campaign Tightens Rules on Lobbying

By ELIZABETH HOLMES 
May 17, 2008; Page A4

Under increasing political pressure to disclose ties to lobbyists, the McCain campaign adopted a policy this week that requires all staffers and volunteers to report their involvement with lobbying groups and other independent agencies.

[John McCain]

“We’re going through the vetting process to make sure that everyone understands in full,” Sen. John McCain said Friday. The policy, which bans all paid aides from lobbying and limits the involvement of volunteers who are registered lobbyists or foreign agents, comes after at least three resignations in a week.

The flare-up over lobbyists is particularly important because Sen. McCain, the unofficial Republican nominee for president, is almost certain to face Democratic front-runner Barack Obama in November. Both candidates have railed against special interests in Washington.

On Friday, news broke of the first casualty of the new McCain policy. The Miami Herald reported that the campaign fired Eric Burgeson, a former energy-policy adviser to Sen. McCain. Mr. Burgeson is a lobbyist at Barbour Griffith & Rogers LLC and leads its energy practice, according to the firm’s Web site.

Mr. Burgeson ran afoul of a new McCain rule that bans campaign volunteers from advising the campaign on the issues they lobby on in the private sector. Mr. Burgeson didn’t return repeated requests for comment.

The changes in the McCain campaign follow by a month Sen. Hillary Clinton’s firing of chief strategist Mark Penn, after The Wall Street Journal reported that he was advising the Colombia government on a trade agreement that Sen. Clinton opposed in her campaign for the Democratic nomination.

On the campaign trail, Sen. Obama says he isn’t tied to lobbyists, even though he had some in his ranks as of March. At that time, Daniel Shapiro, one of Sen. Obama’s foreign-policy advisers, was registered to lobby for American Petroleum Institute. Broderick Johnson, an informal adviser, was in charge of lobbying for a firm that represents Verizon Communications Inc. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC.

Even so, Sen. Obama has repeatedly used lobbyists as a point of attack. He has accused Sen. McCain of having a campaign run by lobbyists — something Sen. McCain and his campaign adamantly deny.

McCain staffers with ties to lobbyists have been jettisoned. Last weekend, Doug Goodyear, who was to run the campaign’s convention, and Doug Davenport, a regional political director, both resigned over their connection to DCI Group LLC, a consulting group once hired to improve the image of Myanmar’s junta. Mr. Goodyear’s departure came just four hours after Newsweek released a story about him.

“Obviously, I didn’t like it,” Sen. McCain said Friday of the involvement of Messrs. Goodyear and Davenport with the firm. “I saw a problem and fixed it.”

Past activities of more senior McCain advisers have raised questions, as well. Campaign manager Rick Davis still retains partial ownership of his lobbying firm, Davis Manafort Inc., but the campaign has repeatedly said he does not receive any income from the firm. The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that Davis Manafort was hired by a Ukrainian political party supported by Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

It was Mr. Davis who wrote the “McCain Campaign Conflict Policy.” Staff members who used to be registered lobbyists or foreign agents are required to file termination papers as proof they have severed their lobbying.

The policy doesn’t ban lobbying altogether. It allows “part-time volunteers” to continue their outside activity so long as they disclose it to the campaign.

Thomas Loeffler, a campaign co-chairman, qualifies for that status. An active lobbyist at his firm, Loeffler Group LLP, Mr. Loeffler is not paid by the campaign and doesn’t advise the campaign on policy issues.

When asked about other aides and volunteers with a history of lobbying, McCain spokesperson Tucker Bounds said, “The policy was just implemented today, and we’re working through the process.”

Charlie Black, a McCain senior political adviser, has also been the subject of recent scrutiny. Until recently, Mr. Black was a lobbyist with BKSH & Associates Worldwide. Two independent liberal groups — MoveOn.org and Progressive Media USA — have started campaigns to oust him. MoveOn.org released a video Friday featuring Mr. Black and his lobbying past. “Call John McCain and tell him to fire Charlie Black,” the announcer says at the end.

A spokesperson for the Republican National Committee called the ad an “outrageous personal smear job.”

–Laura Meckler and Brody Mullins contributed to this article.

Write to Elizabeth Holmes at [email protected]

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