By Robert Novak
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Leaders of Sen. John McCain’s campaign are looking toward “527s” as their principal means of attacking Sen. Barack Obama because they have been given a green light by McCain.
“I can’t be a referee of every spot run on television,” McCain told the Boston Herald in an interview published June 12. He gave up after trying earlier this year to moderate an anti-Obama ad by the North Carolina Republican Party. The GOP presidential candidate, co-author of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act, has criticized using Section 527 of the federal tax code to finance political advertisements by outside groups
Although Obama also has deplored 527 organizations, the most prominent group is the left-wing MoveOn.org (bankrolled primarily by billionaire financier George Soros). It maintains steady fire against McCain.
Members of Congress were swamped by telephone calls and e-mail messages Thursday demanding, “Drill now!” in response to a Republican call for increased American oil production to fight runaway gasoline prices.
Lawmakers got little response to previous proposals intended to lower the cost of oil: alternative energy sources, a federal gasoline tax holiday, an excess profits tax on U.S. oil producers and pressure on foreign oil producers. In contrast, the demand to “drill now” (first urged this year by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich) has taken hold.
A footnote: A challenge to his House colleagues by Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia to sign a letter pledging that “I will vote to increase U.S. oil production to lower gas prices for Americans” began Thursday morning with 72 signatures and by mid-afternoon had reached 152. Only one was a Democrat: Neal Abercrombie of Hawaii, which has especially high gasoline prices. Signatures also were mounting on two petitions to force Democratic-controlled committees to send to the House floor two mandatory oil-drilling bills.
As he gives up public funding for his campaign, Sen. Barack Obama is reaching out to new sources, including Washington insiders whose influence he has vowed to end.
Obama is now using lists of contributors to Democratic congressional chairmen, primarily lobbyists of both parties. One recipient of a letter signed by Obama is a Republican lobbyist who has contributed to senior Democratic Reps. John Dingell of Michigan and Charlie Rangel of New York, not out of ideological affinity but to keep their doors open.
“Together, we change the way business is done in Washington,” said the Obama letter. “We can end the undue influence of special interests.”
Democratic power broker James Johnson did not abruptly resign from vetting Democratic vice presidential prospects but was forced out by Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign.
The multimillionaire Johnson was targeted by the McCain campaign for an allegedly sweetheart loan from an endangered mortgage banker for continuing as a paid consultant for the government-backed Federal National Mortgage Association, which he previously headed.
A footnote: The McCain campaign immediately turned its fire against another Obama vetter, former Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder, because of his role in then-President Bill Clinton’s pardon of his fugitive political contributor Marc Rich. So far, however, the news media have shown no interest.
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist did not help his ambition to be John McCain’s vice presidential running mate when he delivered a Flag Day speech to a conservative audience in Orange County, Calif., and praised California’s Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“Your governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a doing a great job. I love him,” Crist declared. That generated groans from faithful Republicans unhappy over their governor’s turn to the left.
Crist also blundered during his nine-minute talk by saying that Ronald Reagan “came from right here in Orange County, Calif.” Actually, Reagan never lived in Orange County and was a resident of Pacific Palisades in Los Angeles County when elected governor in 1966.