WASHINGTON (AP) Aug. 14, 2008 — John McCain’s chief foreign policy adviser and his business partner lobbied the senator or his staff on 49 occasions in a 3½-year span while being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by the government of the former Soviet republic of Georgia.
The payments raise ethical questions about the intersection of Randy Scheunemann’s personal financial interests and his advice to the Republican presidential candidate who is seizing on Russian aggression in Georgia as a campaign issue.
McCain warned Russian leaders that their assault in Georgia risks “the benefits they enjoy from being part of the civilized world.”
On April 17, a month and a half after Scheunemann stopped working for Georgia, his partner signed a $200,000 agreement with the Georgian government. The deal added to an arrangement that brought in more than $800,000 to the two-man firm from 2004 to mid-2007. For the duration of the campaign, Scheunemann is taking a leave of absence from the firm.
“Scheunemann’s work as a lobbyist poses valid questions about McCain’s judgment in choosing someone who — and whose firm — are paid to promote the interests of other nations,” said New York University law professor Stephen Gillers. “So one must ask whether McCain is getting disinterested advice, at least when the issues concern those nations.”
McCain has been to Georgia three times since 1997 and “this is an issue that he has been involved with for well over a decade, ” said McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rogers.
McCain’s strong condemnation in recent days of Russia’s military action against Georgia as “totally, absolutely unacceptable” reflects long-standing ties between McCain and hardline conservatives such as Scheunemann, an aide in the 1990s to then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.
Scheunemann, who also was a foreign policy adviser in McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign, has for years traveled the same road as McCain in pushing for regime change in Iraq and promoting NATO membership for Georgia and other former Soviet republics.
While their politics coincide, Russia’s invasion of Georgia casts a spotlight on Scheunemann’s business interests and McCain’s conduct as a senator.
Scheunemann’s firm lobbied McCain’s office on four bills and resolutions regarding Georgia, with McCain as a co-sponsor or supporter of all of them.
In addition to the 49 contacts with McCain or his staff regarding Georgia, Scheunemann’s firm has lobbied the senator or his aides on at least 47 occasions since 2001 on behalf of the governments of Taiwan and Macedonia, which each paid Scheunemann and his partner Mike Mitchell over half a million dollars; Romania, which paid over $400,000; and Latvia, which paid nearly $250,000. Federal law requires Scheunemann to publicly disclose to the Justice Department all his lobbying contacts as an agent of a foreign government.
After contacts with McCain’s staff, the senator introduced a resolution saluting the people of Georgia on the first anniversary of the Rose Revolution that brought Mikhail Saakashvili to power.
Randy Scheunemann private sector: