May 19, 2008 / 12:08 AM / 11 years ago

McCain campaign advisor quits over lobbying ties

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A top adviser overseeing finances for Republican Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign has quit over his ties with lobbying, a McCain campaign official confirmed on Sunday.

Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain (R-AZ) speaks to members of the National Rifle Association (NRA) at their annual convention in Louisville, Kentucky, May 16, 2008. REUTERS/David R. Lutman

Former Texas Rep. Thomas Loeffler, a national finance co-chairman, is the latest McCain adviser to step down amid concern over potential conflicts of interest among lobbyists in the campaign.

He is the fifth person who worked on McCain’s campaign to resign recently over links to lobbying activities.

McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee to contest the November presidential election, has made ethics and transparency a centerpiece of his campaign. Last week he established a policy of requiring advisers with lobbying ties to sever them or leave.

Newsweek magazine reported that Loeffler’s lobbying firm has collected nearly $15 million from Saudi Arabia since 2002 and millions more from other foreign and corporate interests, including a French aerospace firm seeking Pentagon contracts.

Campaigning in Oregon, Barack Obama, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, took a swipe at the Arizona senator, saying he appears to be “very much a creature of Washington.”

“And it does appear that over the last several weeks John McCain keeps on having problems with his top advisers being lobbyists, in some cases for foreign governments or other big interests that are doing business in Washington,” Obama said.

“That. I don’t think represents the kind of change that the American people are looking for.”

The McCain campaign retorted by accusing Obama of embracing the kind of “old politics” he claims to reject.

“The McCain campaign has recently put a strict policy in place and all personnel are required to be in compliance with it. Many fine people may have a conflict that is not reconcilable,” said McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds.

“Barak Obama’s dragging the names of good people through the mud publicly is the worst type of character assassination, especially when he has not made the names of his policy advisers public,” Bounds added.

The issue of lobbyists’ connections to U.S. presidential campaigns flared last month with the departure of a top adviser to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign over his role as a lobbyist for Colombia.

Mark Penn stepped down as the New York senator’s chief campaign strategist after he came under fire for meeting with a Colombian diplomat to discuss a free trade deal that Clinton opposes.

Penn said the meeting was in his separate role as chief executive officer of Burson-Marsteller Worldwide, a lobbying firm hired by Colombia to help win congressional approval of a trade agreement with the United States.

(Additional reporting by Caren Bohan and Jeff Mason)

Writing by JoAnne Allen; Editing by Chris Wilson

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