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McCain Campaign Loses a Foreign Agent Whose Firm is on the Saudi Payroll

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On April 15, my colleague Anu--who's been digging into foreign agent lobbyist disclosures--posted a piece noting an oddity about the lobbying firm founded by Thomas Loeffler, a national co-chairman of the McCain campaign. The Loeffler Group had been paid more than $15 million by the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia since 2003 and had had on average about 10 lobbying contacts a month (that is, meetings, phone calls, lunches, etc.) with members of Congress, their staff, and executive branch officials. After March 26, 2007, the firm stopped lobbying government officials on behalf of the Saudis. Yet the Loeffler Group continued to be paid a retainer--some $990,000 in the last six months--despite not doing very much on behalf of their client.

Over the weekend, Loeffler left the McCain campaign; as Mike Allen of the Politico noted,

It’s at least the fifth lobbying-related departure from the campaign in a week. ... The McCain campaign last week announced a restrictive “McCain Campaign Conflict Policy” that included a questionnaire to be returned to the campaign’s legal department as part of a re-vetting of all staff. “No person working for the Campaign may be a registered lobbyist or foreign agent, or receive compensation for any such activity,” the policy says.

The L.A. Times' Dan Morain notes that "Loeffler disclosed that on May 17, 2006, he had a 'meeting with Sen. John McCain and Prince Turki to discuss the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and U.S.-Kingdom of Saudi Arabia relations.' Turki was then Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States."

And Josh Gerstein of the New York Sun asks, after seeing Anu's report, whether the issue with Loeffler might be different: "The bigger problem for Mr. Loeffler may not have been the work he did for the Saudis, but the work he didn’t do."