The chairman of the Republican National Committee wasted no time trying to turn a negative into a positive, telling the party faithful that a potentially damaging story in The New York Times about Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) relationship with a communications lobbyist is a reason why supporters should contribute to his campaign.
The message: Only money can stop what the Republicans called "the liberal mainstream media" from sliming GOP candidates. Many conservatives routinely criticize CBS and CNN, particularly, for perceived liberal bias.
RNC chairman Mike Duncan sent an e-mail solicitation last Thursday, only a few hours after McCain held a press conference to deny that he had a romantic relationship with the lobbyist while chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, or that his acknowledged friendship with the lobbyist had any influence on his consideration of issues before the committee.
The Times published a story Thursday saying that McCain aides had been concerned about the relationship.
The online Drudge Report, not known as a liberal mouthpiece, reported allegations last fall that McCain had shown favoritism to the lobbyist, identified by the Times as Vicki Iseman with the firm of Alcalde & Fay.
She is credited with lobbying on various communications bills, including before the Senate and House Commerce committees. She’s also lobbied for various parts of the digital-TV conversion and ownership regulations. According to lobbyist disclosures made to the U.S. Senate, ION Media Networks, Telemundo and Univision are among her firm’s current or recent clients since 2005. McCain has denied favoritism surrounding letters he sent to the FCC concerning a deal involving Ion forerunner Paxson Communications and the purchase of a Pittsburgh TV station and has said that neither the Drudge nor Times reports are true.
McCain could be hurt by the story, although likely more by the suggestion that he might have been favoring lobbyists -- his mantra is government reform -- rather than the personal relationship aspect.
"Republicans must fight back against the mainstream media’s clear liberal bias," said the e-mail letter over Duncan’s signature. "From the beginning of Campaign 2008, liberal media pundits have fawned over the Democrat presidential candidates while ignoring their lack of substance on the issues. You can be certain that as the campaign heats up, they will continue to mislead voters with their anti-Republican agenda."
The letter ended with a request for anywhere from $25-$1,000 to get the Republicans’ message past "the liberal media filter."