This morning, Washington Post reported that Senator John McCain’s top foreign policy advisor, Randy Scheunemann of Orion Strategies (a two-man lobbying firm that included Scheunemann and Mike Mitchell) had signed a $200,000 contract to provide strategic advice and lobbying support to the Republic of Georgia.
The report noted how Scheunemann eased the path for an April 17 phone call between the presumptive Republican candidate and Mikheil Saakashvilli, president of Georgia, and whom McCain refers to as a “close friend.” .According to Justice Department forms filed by the lobbyists, Scheunemann relied on his access to McCain, and that 71 phone conversations and meetings with the Arizona senator were made on behalf of Orion’s clients, including Georgia.
The calls centered on Georgia's endeavors to become a NATO member, and on Washington legislation, co-sponsored by the senior senator from the Grand Canyon State that endorsed Georgia’s stand on South Ossetia. The Washington Post also reported “Another measure lobbied by Orion and co-sponsored by McCain, the NATO Freedom Consolidation Act of 2006, would have authorized a $10 million grant for Georgia” and that “Between Jan. 1, 2007, and May 15, 2008, the campaign paid Scheunemann nearly $70,000 to provide foreign policy advice. During the same period, the government of Georgia paid his firm $290,000 in lobbying fees.”
Justice Department files disclose that since 2004, Orion has collected $800,000 from the government of Georgia.
The very critical question raised by such arrangements goes directly to the level of foreign policy independence a US president can (and must) be expected to exert, given a long-standing financial relationship between a high-level staff member and a foreign country. This is not some minor matter. Whether and to what extent might American military assistance, our blood, our treasure, be provided to that country? The American public has an absolute right to know, and to believe there exists nothing other than America's interests that are being weighed in such a decision.