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McCain Intentionally Cost Boeing the Air Force Tanker Deal and sealed it for Europe's Airbus

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An examination of the links of Senator and presumptive Republican nominee for President John McCain and his campaign staff to the debacle where Europe's Airbus won a bid for an Air Force tanker project over Boeing produces some startling conclusions. The interference by McCain and key McCain for President staff cost Boeing the contract.

At a time when our economy is in a tailspin, unemployment is edging higher and the dollar is getting beaten up by the Euro, the loss of this contract to EADS/Airbus will be a severe blow to the US in general and the state of Washington in particular. According to an April 2007 article in the Seattle Post Intelligencer 'At the time Boeing submitted its bid, a Boeing executive said "The tanker program would support about 9,000 jobs in Washington State and contribute about $400 million a year to the state's economy. The job numbers include Boeing 767 commercial airplane workers in Everett as well as jobs with 767 suppliers in Washington."' Ultimately, the contract will provide an estimated $20-$40 Billion dollars to the company and economy that lands it.

Senator McCain is the ranking Republican member of the Senate Armed Services Committee so he was in a position to put pressure on the individual deciding to whom to award the contract. As described by Wikipedia, the Senate Armed Services Committee is "empowered with legislative oversight of the nation's military, including the Department of Defense, military research and development, nuclear energy (as pertaining to national security), benefits for members of the military, the Selective Service System and other matters related to defense policy... Considered one of the most powerful Senate committees, its broad mandate allowed it to report some of the most extensive and revolutionary legislation during the Cold War years, including the National Security Act of 1947." The committee's own website describes it as having jurisdiction over "the development of weapons systems or military operations ... pay, promotion, retirement, and other benefits and privileges of members of the Armed Forces, including overseas education of civilian and military dependents"

Department of Defense personnel ignore or thwart the desires of the members of the Senate Armed Services Committee at their peril. Thus, when Senator McCain sent this September 2006 letter to the Deputy Secretary of Defense, it resulted in a number of things happening. First, McCain successfully obtained the removal from the RFP of a fairness clause with regard to international trade. EADS/Airbus is known to have a significant amount of financial support and subsidies from several EU member countries. That puts EADS/Airbus at an unfair advantage versus its competitors like Boeing. This issue of unfair advantages for EADS/Airbus is already the subject of WTO (World Trade Organization) litigation regarding competition for commercial aircraft contracts. Second, the attention from a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and their apparent desire to remove an obstacle to EADS/Airbus obtaining the contract had to suggest to DOD and Air Force procurement personnel that there was a possibility that McCain had an interest in seeing EADS/Airbus obtain the contract. This suggestion would be strengthened later as I will explain. However, getting back to McCain's letter of September 2006, he shows concern that the Air Force get the best planes, which is admirable, but he does not also show concern that an American firm have a level playing field in developing and obtaining a huge contract for supplying those planes.

This above letter by itself could be forgiven. But Senator McCain sent a second letter three months later that almost certainly made it clear what he wanted. The letter criticized the Tanker RFP for "including an overly restrictive invocation of the Berry Amendment and a questionable extension of ITAR regulations" The Berry Amendment, according to this entry in Wikipedia "requires the Department of Defense to give preference in procurement to domestically produced, manufactured, or home grown products". ITAR or International Traffic in Arms Regulations are "a set of United States government regulations that control the export and import of defense-related articles and services" according to this Wiki .

EADS/Airbus has no less than four previous and one current Lobbyist working on the McCain for President Campaign. These lobbyists are not of the small time variety. As this page shows :

Former Texas Rep. Tom Loeffler: lobbied for EADS while serving as McCain's National Finance Chairman. He is a former Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from central Texas. A key account he worked on for the Group was the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Susan Nelson: left the Loeffler Group to become McCain's Campaign Finance Director. Previously she was the finance director of the Republican Governors Association. In the 1990s, Nelson served as finance services director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

John Green: was on the Ogilvy EADS lobbying team, took a leave of absence from the firm to volunteer as McCain's campaign congressional liaison. Green, a Mississippi native, has strong ties in the Senate after his years of work for former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), a vocal McCain supporter who left Congress late last year to set up his own lobbying shop.

Wayne Berman: also a founding partner of Ogilvy, described on the company website: "one of Washington's quietly influential insiders on both domestic and foreign policy." He was formerly an Assistant Secretary of State under George H.W. Bush. He was a senior advisor to the Bush/Cheney transition in 2001, the vice presidential campaign director for Dole/Kemp and deputy director of the Republican National Convention in 1996, director of congressional relations during the Bush/Quayle campaign in 1988 and a deputy director of the Bush/Reagan transition team in 1981. He has served in a variety of fundraising capacities in every Republican presidential race since 1992.

His wife Lea is the current White House Social Secretary.

Charlie Black: Currently a principal at BKSH but is also working for the McCain campaign. BKSH is owned by Burson-Marsteller (whose CEO is Mark Penn). ThinkProgress recently reported on Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) long friendship with Iraqi exile leader Ahmad Chalabi, who drummed up claims that Saddam Hussein had WMD and helped lead the United States into war. But Sen. McCain isn't the only one on his campaign with ties to Chalabi. Charlie Black serves as Sen. McCain's chief political adviser. He is also an uber-lobbyist, "chairman of one of Washington's lobbying powerhouses," BKSH and Associates.

It is impossible to imagine that these ties between the former and current EADS/Airbus lobbyists and McCain, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee did not heavily factor into the decision to award the tanker deal to Airbus. Former Rep. Tom Loeffler actually was McCain's National Finance Chairman at the same time he was lobbying for EADS. If you think that in his lobbying efforts he didn't mention his association with McCain, you don't understand the way the lobbying game is played in Washington.

This still isn't as bad as this gets. There are extensive contributions to the McCain campaign for President from the above various lobbying companies and from EADS/Airbus' US employees.

" Executives for the clients of Ogilvy Government Relations gave at least $271,000 for McCain's presidential bid.

" Loeffler Group client employees donated $118,500, according to a Washington Post analysis.

" BKSH clients' executives gave $24,000 to McCain's Campaign.

" EADS/Airbus employees have donated $12,600 to McCain's campaign.

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A political blogger for the International Business Times, Steve Leser is a hot national political pundit. He has appeared on MSNBC's Coundown with Keith Olbermann, Comedy Central's Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Russia Today's (RT) Crosstalk with (more...)
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