Aides to Sen. John McCain confronted a telecommunications lobbyist in late 1999 and asked her to distance herself from the Arizona senator during the presidential campaign he was about to launch, according to one of McCain's longest-serving political strategists.
John Weaver, who was McCain's closest confidant until leaving his presidential campaign last year, told the Washington Post that he met with Vicki Iseman at a cafe in Union Station in Washington and urged her to stay away from McCain. Association with a lobbyist would undermine his image as an opponent of special interests, aides had concluded.
FOR THE RECORD:
Iseman clients: An article in Thursday's Section A about Sen. John McCain's ties to lobbyist Vicki Iseman cited a reference from the Washington Post that Iseman represented Cablevision, EchoStar and Tribune Broadcasting. She did not represent those companies. —
Members of the senator's small circle of advisors also confronted McCain directly, according to sources, warning him that his continued relationship with Iseman, a lobbyist who had business before the powerful Commerce Committee he chaired could derail his presidential ambitions.
The New York Times, in a lengthy article posted on its website Wednesday evening, reported that some of McCain's top advisors at the time were convinced that McCain's relationship with the lobbyist had become romantic. It also reported, however, that McCain and Iseman both say they never had a romantic relationship.
In response to the New York Times article, the McCain campaign issued a statement from its communications director, Jill Hazelbaker, saying, "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."
According to the Post, Iseman, 40, joined the Arlington, Va.-based firm of Alcalde & Fay as a secretary and rose to partner within a few years. The newspaper reported that she often touted her access to McCain as she worked on behalf of clients such as Cablevision, EchoStar and Tribune Broadcasting, according to several other lobbyists who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Tribune Broadcasting is a unit of Tribune Co., whose holdings include the Los Angeles Times and KTLA-TV Channel 5.