After a series of disclosures forced the resignation of two McCain campaign aides with ties to unsavory regimes, the campaign has decided to scrutinize the background of the entire staff to ferret out connections to lobbyists.
This morning, according to two Republicans with direct knowledge, Rick Davis, the campaign manager, e-mailed to McCain's entire staff a memo entitled "McCain Campaign Conflicts Policy" -- Effective Today" that includes a questionnaire asking about previous professional activities.
One of the questions asks: "Have you ever been a registered lobbyist at either the Federal or State level?" Another asks: "Have you ever been a registered foreign agent? A third asks staff members to list all of their previous lobbying or foreign government clients.
All staff members are required to submit the form to McCain's campaign counsel, Trevor Potter and his staff, for their review.
Employees who lie about their affiliations will be fired. The new conflicts policy prohibits campaign staffers from being "registered lobbyist or foreign agent, or receive compensation for any such activity."
It's not clear whether Davis plans to terminate employees who have lobbied for unsavory characters or corporations or governments. The memo says that those who have lobbied before or who have represented foreign governments can't participate on campaign policy task forces for the subjects they registered to lobby on, and they're "prohibited from lobbying Senator McCain or his Senate personal office or committee staffs during the period they are volunteering for the campaign." Staffers who currently lobby will be forced to terminate their lobbying status.
A final question asks:
Please list any other potential conflict of interest (whether lobbying related or not) that you think the Campaign should be aware of. It is important for the Campaign to know at the outset of any controversial clients you or your former employers have represented to avoid future embarrassment to you or the Campaign:
A McCain spokesperson confirmed the authenticity of the memo but declined further comment.
The Politico reported this evening that Craig Shirley, an outside, unpaid campaign adviser, will no longer advise McCain because he also works for an anti-Obama 527 organization.
In the wake of last weekend's disclosure that McCain's convention CEO and one of his regional campaign managers lobbied for the Myanmar Junta in 2003, McCain promised to reporters that he would better vet his campaign staff.
But sympathetic critics -- including some within the campaign -- worry that the damage to McCain's brand has already set in, and have, for months, urged senior campaign officials to screen their staff.
That the campaign waited until now to ask these questions of staff suggests that no one at a senior enough level saw the presence of many former lobbyists as a problem. Davis and senior strategist Charlie Black are both former lobbyists.
Black resigned from his firm in April; his long list of clients have attracted the attention of Democrats who've accused him of representing would-be dictators and malevolent regimes.
The Obama campaign has had a similar conflict of interest policy since the campaign began last year and has required prospective employees to list potential conflicts.