The chairman of the Republican National Committee was wasting no time in trying to turn a negative into a positive, telling the party faithful that a potentially damaging New York Times story about Republican presidential candidate John McCain's relationship with a communications lobbyist is a reason supporters should contribute to his campaign.
The message: Only money can stop what the Republicans call “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 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 had published a story Thursday saying 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, identifed 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 DTV 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, and has said neither the Drudge nor Times reports are true.
McCain could be hurt by the story, though 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,” says 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,” he wrote. “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 to $1,000 to get the Republicans' message past “the liberal media filter.”