Main | Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mark Buse: McCain's Lobbyist Insider

It certainly didn't turn out to be the biggest story of his day, but yesterday PBS ran an interview with John McCain's gay chief of staff Mark Buse. From the transcript:
JUDY WOODRUFF: Just to recap quickly the evolution of your time working for him [John McCain]. You started in 1984 as an intern when he was a member of the House?

MARK BUSE: Senate Chief of Staff to John McCain: House. Freshman in the House.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And what over time what have your jobs been?

MARK BUSE: Started as an intern, worked in the mailroom, answered the phones, legislative correspondent, legislative assistant -- anything that he wanted you to do, I did. You know, sort of just plugged away in the trenches for year after year. And that's sort of the way that he runs things. You know, just, if you are willing to work for him and stick around, he believe in that sort Navy mentality of you work your way up in the ranks.
Well, not exactly "up from the ranks." What Buse fails to mention to PBS is that he left McCain's employ in 1993, returning to Congress in 1997 as the Staff Director for the powerful McCain-chaired Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, a job he held until 2001.

Then from 2002 until earlier this year, Buse worked as a registered lobbyist for UPS, ExxonMobil, Goldman Sachs, AT&T, Cablevision, and various other travel, communications, biomed, pharmaceutical and technologies concerns - all companies with important legislation before McCain's committee. Ain't it neat how Washington works? After six years of being literally in the pocket of companies that were greasing the wheels of McCain's committee, Buse comes right back over. Via Slate from February:
The Times reports that the enemy of special interests, money in politics, earmarks, and lobbyists has staffed his presidential campaign with lobbyists and recently hired a lobbyist to run his Senate office. That particular lobbyist, Mark Buse, the paper reports, came to McCain's staff through the revolving door. Before he was a telecommunication industry lobbyist, Buse was the director of McCain's commerce committee staff.

When critics question McCain's integrity, his allies, such as McCain adviser and lobbyist Charles Black, say the man is beyond reproach. "Unless he gives you special treatment or takes legislative action against his own views, I don't think his personal and social relationships matter," Black told the Times.

This, of course, is hooey. What the lobbyist craves above all is access, and anything that provides that edge is coveted. In many cases, both lobbyists and their clients know the mission to change the mind of a member of Congress is hopeless. Often the point of the exercise is to be seen and heard by the member. If the lobbyist does not carry the day with the member, the client counts on the "relationship" to pay off in the next visit or the visit after that or the visit after that.

Getting inside the "red zone," to steal a metaphor from Washington Post reporter Jeffrey H. Birnbaum's feature about the tourism industry's recent lobbying efforts, is almost as good as a touchdown. Corruption, if that's the right word for it, arrives on the installment plan as a lobbyist moves closer and closer to a member.

All this stuff is well known, but I just find it amusing that Buse is now spinning his work history as an "up from the ranks" hard work ethic success, when really he's just another slimy lobbyist working both sides of the McCain fence. (And Manhunt.)

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