Times: McCain Went to Bat for Broadcasters to Please Gal Pal

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Ion Media Networks has been making some noise of late, adding original Westerns on Saturday nights and classics such as Baywatch and M*A*S*H

The broadcaster also turned up in the New York Times’"hit and run smear campaign"–the McCain camp’s words, not ours–on Sen. John McCain yesterday. 

As my DC-based colleague Eggerton notes, McCain’s alleged friend-with-benefits is telecommunications lobbyist Vicki Iseman, whose clients included Tribune, EchoStar and Paxson, now doing business as Ion Media Networks. 

The way I’m reading it, the Times suggests that McCain acted out of character to appease Iseman:

A champion of deregulation, Mr. McCain wrote letters in 1998 and 1999 to the Federal Communications Commission urging it to uphold marketing agreements allowing a television company to control two stations in the same city, a crucial issue for Glencairn Ltd., one of Ms. Iseman’s clients. He introduced a bill to create tax incentives for minority ownership of stations; Ms. Iseman represented several businesses seeking such a program. And he twice tried to advance legislation that would permit a company to control television stations in overlapping markets, an important issue for Paxson.

In late 1999, Ms. Iseman asked Mr. McCain’s staff to send a letter to the commission to help Paxson, now Ion Media Networks, on another matter. Mr. Paxson was impatient for F.C.C. approval of a television deal, and Ms. Iseman acknowledged in an e-mail message to The Times that she had sent to Mr. McCain’s staff information for drafting a letter urging a swift decision.

Mr. McCain complied. He sent two letters to the commission, drawing a rare rebuke for interference from its chairman.