Sen. John McCain's campaign has admitted that his top foreign policy adviser has lobbied for not two but three different firms run by cash-for-access deal-maker Stephen Payne.
But the McCain camp insists that Randy Scheunemann did not lobby McCain himself on "any issues relating to" Stephen Payne.
That might come as a relief to McCain supporters, since Payne was caught on video a few weeks ago telling a Kazakh politician he could set up high-level meetings at the White House in exchange for big donations to the future George W. Bush Presidential Library fund.
But is it true?
Let's go back to 2001. That's when Scheunemann and Payne first met, according to the McCain camp.
Scheunemann was lobbying on behalf of the government of Latvia. Latvia was seeking entry into NATO. And McCain was among the lawmakers he targeted. In fact, Scheunemann and McCain both traveled to Latvia in August 2001, where McCain met with an slew of Latvian officials and talked about NATO expansion and U.S. policy with Sheunemann, according to lobbying documents filed with the U.S. Department of Justice.
Reader DG points out that it was just a few days later that McCain announced his support for the Baltic country's admission into NATO. (It was granted admission in 2004)
And what was Stephen Payne doing in Latvia?
According to his own firms' documents, a lot. One brochure said Payne's firm, Worldwide Strategic Partners, "led Lavia's efforts to become a NATO member." Another for his related firm, Worldwide Strategic Energy, said the same thing.
Payne has been Latvia's "honorary consul" in Texas, which is among the many business activities he conducts from the same office address in suburban Houston.
It looks like Payne and Scheunemann were on the same side of the issue, trying to convince people like McCain and other U.S. lawmakers to back Latvia's bid for NATO membership.
Payne doesn't always register his work for foreign countries in the Department of Justice database maintained under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
The McCain camp told us that Sheunemann and Payne met in Latvia in 2001. How exactly did they meet? Were they working together? Did McCain at any point meet Payne? Those are some of the questions we've asked the campaign. We'll let you know if and when they get back to us.