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Scuttled Tanker Deal Could Bring Back Lobbyist Questions « The Washington Independent

With the news that the Government Accounting Office has sided with the U.S. airplane manufacturer Boeing, and recommended that the Pentagon re-open a controversial $35-billion contract to competitive bidding, the McCain campaign could again find itself in the spotlight for its ties to lobbyists. According to The Associated Press:

The Government Accountability Office said Wednesday that it found "a number of significant errors that could have affected the outcome of what was a close competition between Boeing and Northrop Grumman."

The Air Force had no immediate reaction to the GAO findings, saying only that it is aware of the report and will review it.

While the GAO decision is not binding, it puts tremendous pressure on the Air Force to reopen the contract and could help Boeing capture part or all of the award. It also gives ammunition to Boeing supporters in Congress who have been seeking to block funding for the deal or force a new competition.

Sen. John McCain was a vocal advocate for opening the bidding process to the foreign company EADS. Several of McCain’s campaign advisers had lobbied on behalf of European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. (EADS), which was awarded the contract to build Air Force tankers, in a partnership with the U.S. firm, Northrop Grumman. Two advisers had severed their ties with EADS when they joined the campaign. Tom Loeffler, McCain’s former national finance co-chair, continued to lobby for EADS while on the campaign. Under scrutiny, Loeffler stepped down last month during the campaign’s so-called "lobbyist purge" — when the organization instituted stricter rules regarding campaign staff ties to lobbying.

In 2003, McCain led a corruption investigation into a previous Boeing deal that resulted in prison terms for a Boeing executive and a Pentagon official. No word yet from the Obama camp. We’ll see how this plays out.

UPDATE:

The Democratic National Committee just released the following statement:

"Now that the GAO has found that the tanker deal was not the ‘open’ and ‘transparent’ process he claimed to be seeking, Senator McCain has a responsibility to stand up for America’s working families and insist the Air Force reopen the bidding on this tanker," said Democratic National Committee Communications Director Karen Finney. "After siding with his lobbyist friends in helping steer tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs overseas the last time around, Senator McCain has an opportunity to do the right thing now. Given his history of promoting policies that outsource American jobs, we’re not holding our breath."

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