Doug Davenport, a founder of the DCI Group and the head of its lobbying practice, is slated to become one of the McCain campaign's ten regional campaign managers, Republicans close to the campaign said yesterday.

Many McCain allies have long believed that DCI, then called DCI Companies, provided logistical support to the operatives who ran an underground smear campaign against McCain before the South Carolina primary in 2000 -- that they they oversaw and participated in push polling that attacked McCain, Cindy McCain for her well-chronicled drug addiction, and McCain's adopted daughter Bridget.

DCI Group executives have denied playing any role in that episode.

Before helping to start DCI, Davenport was the chief lobbyist for a major lottery company. DCI's federal clients include telecoms, defense contractors, big PhRMA and mortgage lenders. Davenport is close to McCain's campaign manager Rick Davis; both worked on Bob Dole's 1996 campaign.

DCI Group specializes in corporate and Republican-oriented astroturf lobbying -- it specializes in setting up "grassroots" coalitions that ostensibly represent critical interest groups or wide swaths of voters.

The firm is said to be behind the 2006 spoof of Al Gore's global warming movie. It helped set up Progress for America, the well-funded 527 that assisted President Bush in the 2004 elections. It is associated with the grassroots lobbying/direct mail firm Feather Larson Synhorst (FLI), which has close ties to the Bush wing of Republican Party.

Davenport's new position is certain to precipitate complaints from rivals that McCain is packing his campaign with the lobbyists whose conduct he has denounced. McCain's advisers have said that McCain's credentials as a reformer are solid and can overcome any optics problem that comes along with hiring lobbyists.

They say that he is unfairly held to a higher standard than Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

"I don't remember McCain ever saying that making an honest living was wrong," a senior campaign adviser said last night. "He has inveighed against politicians who value relationships with lobbyists and donations more than the public interest."

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