I don’t know whether Senator John McCain had sex with lobbyist Vickie Iseman, but I do know, first hand, that he broke the rules while doing the bidding of media mogul Lowell “Bud” Paxson, a major contributor to McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign. McCain’s staff lied it about it then and they are inventing new lies even now.
I was the leader of the campaign opposing the transfer of Pittsburgh’s second public television station (Channel 16), along with $17.5 million, to a conservative televangelist ministry so that Paxson could expand his network into the Pittsburgh market. In fact, I wrote a well-reviewed book in 2000 about the entire case, Air Wars: The Fight to Reclaim Public Broadcasting.
Since this man could well be the next President of the United States, his character should be of concern to all people of this country.
In 1994, local media revealed that Pittsburgh’s public station WQED had piled up millions of dollars of debt due to obvious malfeasance and, according to our informants, possible embezzlement. By 1996, new CEO George Miles’s solution to this problem was to commercialize and sell off Channel 16. Along with activist Linda Wambaugh, I organized the Save Pittsburgh Public Television campaign to advocate a solution that would have both addressed the debt and saved the station.
In July 1996, the FCC denied WQED’s petition on the grounds that a noncommercial license had never been removed from a community without being replaced by another. Around April 1997, WQED proposed “Plan B”–a swap with Cornerstone Broadcasting, bankrolled by Paxson Communications, with Cornerstone taking over our public station and Paxson taking over Cornerstone’s commercial frequency.
As reported originally in the New York Times, McCain wrote two letters late in 1999 to each of the five FCC commissioners demanding that they advise him by December 15 whether they had voted for or against Paxson’s petition. McCain continues to insist that his letter’s disclaimer that he was not calling for a particular outcome exonerates him of charges of interference. However, Steve Labaton of the New York Times plowed through 2,000 pages of McCain office correspondence and found that almost all of his letters included this “boilerplate” disclaimer. Moreover, in “the vast majority of these regulatory cases where McCain himself sent the letter, the interested parties had contributed to his presidential campaigns.”
As our attorney, Georgetown’s Angela Campbell, advised ABC News: “The timing of the letters was clearly in Paxson’s interest.” Paxson’s contract with all parties was due to expire December 31 and there were clear indications that Cornerstone would withdraw from the deal. The Commission still was undecided and had the option to refer the case for public hearing so that community sentiment could be measured. Short of outright denial, this was our wish. Miles acknowledged to the press at the time that had this happened, the deal would have been “dead in the water.”
Back then, after extensive interviews with DC lobbyists and FCC staff, the Boston Globe, New York Times, Washington Post and others concluded that McCain’s letters were “highly unusual,” “crossed a line” and “were widely interpreted to favor the complicated transfers.”