"Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain's national campaign general co-chair was being paid by a Swiss bank to lobby Congress about the U.S. mortgage crisis at the same time he was advising McCain about his economic policy, federal records show.
"Countdown with Keith Olbermann" reported Tuesday night that lobbying disclosure forms, filed by the giant Swiss bank UBS, list McCain's campaign co-chair, former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, as a lobbyist dealing specifically with legislation regarding the mortgage crisis as recently as Dec. 31, 2007.
Gramm joined the bank in 2002 and had registered as a lobbyist by 2004. UBS filed paperwork deregistering Gramm on April 18 of this year. Gramm continues to serve as a UBS vice chairman."
You can see the lobbying disclosure forms at the MSNBC link above. They are as advertised. (On all except the first, note the little "Next" button at the upper left; it takes you to subsequent pages, on some of which you will find Gramm's name.)
Gramm is bad news with or without his lobbying job. As I wrote two months ago, he was heavily involved in the Enron crash, and some of his legislation helped make the current crisis possible. To quote James Galbraith:
"Phil Gramm's career was as the most aggressive advocate of every predatory and rapacious element that the financial sector has," Galbraith said. "He's a sorcerer's apprentice of instability and disaster in the financial system."
But it just defies belief that McCain would have, as his main economic advisor and one of the people responsible for his plan to deal with the mortgage crisis, someone who was a paid lobbyist for a bank that was heavily involved in that crisis, a firm that has just advised some of its employees not to travel to the US for legal reasons, and that stands to gain or lose a lot depending on what the federal government decides to do about it. What's next: the revelation that McCain's policy on Iran is being written by a lobbyist for the makers of cruise missiles? Or that he has outsourced his health care policy to a lobbyist for the National Funeral Directors Association?
My best guess -- and it's only a guess -- is that there are certain things about himself that McCain is so sure of that he does not see how he could ever be challenged on them. He knows that he is a man of honor, so why would he need to keep people with obvious conflicts of interest away from his campaign -- even when he is taking their advice on topics that, by his own admission, he doesn't know much about? Likewise, he knows that he cares about the military, so why would he need to actually acquire a decent record on veterans' issues?
If this is at all right, it promises to be an entertaining campaign. Meanwhile, will the last lobbyist to leave the McCain campaign please turn out the lights?