Another lobbyist, Thomas Loeffler, leaves the McCain campaign

By A. James Memmott

May 20, 2008 at 8:50am

The McCain campaign’s new policy on lobbyists caused another resignation Sunday with the departure of a powerhouse fundraiser.

Thomas Loeffler, a former Texas congressman who heads a lobbying firm that has worked on behalf of Saudi Arabia and other interests, stepped down from two positions with the campaign.

“In a year when gasoline is topping $4 a gallon, having your chief fundraiser also lobby for Saudi Arabia is not exactly an asset for your campaign,” Larry Makinson, a campaign finance expert, told The Los Angeles Times.

In leaving, Loeffler follows two McCain advisers who had lobbied on behalf of the military junta in Myanmar, a government that has been slow in aiding its citizens following a cyclone there.

Loeffler was one of a small group of general co-chairmen for the campaign, as well as one of a larger group of co-chairs for the national finance committee.

Last week, the McCain campaign adopted a policy requiring staffers and volunteers to disclose their involvement with lobbying firms.

Under the policy, paid staff cannot lobby on behalf of foreign interests.

Volunteers can remain as registered lobbyists, though they cannot lobby McCain on behalf of clients.

Loeffler, a volunteer, was not in technical violation of the policy.

However, Charles R. Black Jr., a top aide to McCain and a recently retired lobbyist, told the Wall Street Journal that senior staff could not be registered to lobby.

McCain’s close associations with lobbyists have presented problems for his campaign for the past few months, raising questions about his status as a government reformer.

Black, especially, had been seen as having possible conflicts of interest. He headed BKSH & Associates, a Washington lobbying firm, until his retirement in March.

Loeffler is a veteran of previous Republican presidential campaigns, including those of both presidents Bush, and previous Republican administrations, including those of Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan.

He also served four terms in the U.S. House of Representative, from 1979 to 1987.

The Loeffler Group’s link to Saudi Arabia was reported earlier this month. The firm has taken in nearly $15 million for its work with that oil-rich country, according to reports.

In departing the campaign, Loeffler follows Doug Goodyear, the coordinator of the Republican Convention, and Doug Davenport, a regional manager for the campaign.

They have been lobbyists with DCI Group, a firm that had worked for the government of Myanmar, the former Burma.

McCain’s is not the only presidential campaign to have had lobbyist problems.

Earlier this year, Mark Penn, a key adviser to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democrat from New York, left her campaign over a conflict of interest.

As the head of Burson-Marsteller Worldwide, Penn had lobbied on behalf of the government of Colombia’s desire for a free trade agreement with the U.S. Clinton was opposed to that agreement.

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