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McCain Confronts Allegations of Close Ties to Lobbyist

On Thursday, presumptive GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., challenged allegations that he had an improper relationship with a lobbyist that were raised in a New York Times article, calling it a "hit and run smear campaign."

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Judy Woodruff has the John McCain story.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    At a hurriedly arranged news conference in Toledo, Ohio, this morning, Sen. John McCain directly rebutted New York Times' allegations that during McCain's 2000 presidential bid his campaign staff confronted him about an improper relationship with a female lobbyist 30 years his junior.

    Her name is Vicki Iseman, and she also has denied that they were more than friends. This morning, McCain was asked to characterize the relationship.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: Friends, seen her on occasions, particularly at receptions and fundraisers and appearances before the committee. I have many friends in Washington who represent various interests and those who don't, and I consider her a friend.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    McCain also knocked down the Times' allegation that in 1999 he improperly intervened with federal regulators on a lobbying matter important to Iseman. At the time, Iseman was lobbying McCain on behalf of businessman Lowell "Bud" Paxson, who was attempting to buy a TV station in Pittsburgh.

    McCain, then chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees telecommunications matters, sent two letters to the Federal Communications Commission urging a decision on the deal.

    The Times' report also said that McCain staffers were concerned that the senator was spending an inordinate amount of time with Iseman, which included a trip to Washington from Miami on a Paxson-owned jet.

  • SEN. JOHN MCCAIN:

    First of all, on riding on the airplane, that was an accepted practice. I have ridden on many airplanes. And since then, the rules have been changed with something I supported.

    On the, quote, "letters to the FCC," interestingly, this was brought up in the year 2000 by the New York Times. I wrote a letter because the FCC, which usually makes a decision within 400 days, had gone almost 800 days.

    In the letter, I said, "I am not telling you how to make a decision. I'm just telling you that you should move forward and make a decision on this issue." And I believe that was appropriate.

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