Rick Davis, John McCain And The Corruption of American Politics

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[Election 2008]

Up until this weekend, I had only heard of John McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, a principal in the lobbying firm Davis, Manafort & Freedman.  Davis has brought a barrage of criticism to the McCain-Palin ticket because his firm lobbied on behalf of Freddie Mac from the end of 2005 until August 2008, when the home-loan corporation collapsed and was taken over by the Federal government.

As a principal in the lobbying firm, which was collecting $30,000 per month, Davis benefited monetarily from the Freddie Mac contract, even while he was heading up the McCain campaign. Talk about a conflict of interest.

I caught the direct stench of Davis for the first time on Fox News Sunday, during which he was abusive, deceptive, disruptive and duplicitous—and those were the nice things he did on the show. Almost single-handedly, Davis, a University of Alabama dropout, has brought American politics to a new low. And it is sad, almost tragic, to see the once-proud McCain stoop with him.

Davis is one of the conservative scumbags—I’m sorry, there is really no other word for it—who have made millions lobbying on behalf of special interests, both nationally and abroad, during the corrupt presidency of George W. Bush.

And he has been particularly loyal to John McCain, at whose political trough he has now fed since they met in 1999. Davis’s clients include the likes of Airborne Express, Bell South/SBC, Deutsche Post World Net-USA, Gtech Corp., Imagesat, Omni Computer Products, Preserve Luke AFB, and Verizon—all of whom had business before McCain’s Senate Commerce Committee and who have paid Davis’s firm $2.8 in lobbying fees while the Republicans have controlled the White House.

Like McCain, Davis was born into a Navy family, reared with all the economic protections afforded by the Federal government, and yet who has made a career spewing anti-government rhetoric while squeezing everything he could out of the system, always at the tax-payers’ expense. If hypocrisy were horse manure, he and his Republican cronies could fertilize every rice paddy in China.

At one point on Fox News Sunday, Barack Obama’s chief political strategist David Axelrod asked Davis directly:  “Do you sell access to Senator McCain?”

“No, I don't,” the uber-lobbyist responded.

It was a lie of monumental proportions.

Rick Davis is the rottenness that threatens what Lincoln once referred to as “the golden apple of American democracy.” He first joined the McCain team in 1999, during McCain’s ill-fated primary battle against George Bush in the Republican primary. In 2000, he headed up a lobbying effort called the Homeownership Alliance, a Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac advocacy group.

The following year, when McCain started the Reform Institute as a forum for promoting campaign finance legislation, he called in Davis. In 2002, Davis was paid $120,000 as an “institute consultant;” in 2003, he collected $110,000 in fees. In 2004 and 2005, when Davis was named president of the non-profit institute, his salary totaled $165,000. According to his Federal tax forms, Davis claimed that he worked an average of five hours a week, or “as needed,” for his fees.

But the Davis-McCain link that is by far the most troubling took place only two years ago, in 2006, when Davis helped set up a meeting between McCain and Russian aluminum magnate, Oleg Deripaska, at a conference in Switzerland. Deripaska's suspected links to anti-democratic and organized-crime figures in Russia were so controversial that the U.S. government revoked his entry visa that same year.

According to The Washington Post, Davis was actively courting the Russian billionaire’s business. Deripaska later thanked Davis and his firm for arranging the meeting with McCain “so spectacularly” and “in such an intimate setting.”

Has Davis no shame?

Apparently not. It actually gets worse: Davis and McCain helped advance what became a key victory for Russia, gaining control over the small but strategically important country of Montenegro. According to The Nation, Davis and his firm were paid several million dollars to help run Montenegro's independence referendum campaign.

The conservative Wall Street Journal reported that Davis’s work on behalf of the Kremlin was a “sore point” for McCain.

Lying doesn’t seem to matter to Davis. On Fox News Sunday, he called his lobbying efforts “ghosts from his past.” He made the absolutely bizarre claim that the bipartisan legislative investigation of Sarah Palin in Alaska was “a kangaroo court” and that they found “no violations of any kind of laws or ethics rules”—which, of course, is a chilling fabrication.

These law-and-order types are all pomp and circumstance, except when it goes against them. In fact, the legislative report found that “Governor Palin knowingly permitted a situation to continue where impermissible pressure was placed on several subordinates in order to advance a personal agenda”—a clear violation of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act, which bars any official action to benefit a personal interest.

But the facts never seem to get in the way of Davis. In response to the hate-filled atmosphere surrounding the McCain-Palin campaign, Davis actually had the audacity to assert that  "Barack Obama should apologize to John McCain directly” for comments made by Obama supporters criticizing the McCain campaign.

It would be easy to say Rick Davis simply doesn’t get it—but in fact he does. And therein lies the problem. John McCain’s campaign manager is a pathological liar, hell-bent on winning at any cost, including ugly and fallacious assaults on Barack Obama’s character.

And, sadly, as with many of the lobbyists surrounding the McCain-Palin campaign, in the end, it’s all about the money—democracy be damned.


Black Star News national affairs columnist Geoffrey Dunn, Ph. D., is an award-winning filmmaker and journalist. He is the former recipient of a both a John L. Senior Fellowship to the Cornell University Graduate School of Government and a National Newspaper Association Award for Investigative Journalism. His most recent film is Calypso Dreams.

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