McCain Talked With Georgia President On The Same Day McCain Aide Sealed Georgia Lobbying Contract

Randy Scheunemann earned about $70,000 serving as Sen. John McCain’s top foreign policy adviser between the January 2007 and May 15, 2008.

During the same period, the government of Georgia paid his firm $290,000 in lobbying fees.

Today’s Washington Post reports a stark illustration of the conflict of interest that Scheunemann faced while advising McCain on foreign policy matters related to the former Soviet Republic and also working for the Georgia embassy.

On April 17, McCain got on the phone with Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili about Russian efforts to gain leverage over two of Georgia’s troubled provinces. That same day, McCain issued a public statement condemning Russia and expressing strong support for the Georgian position.

And also on that same day, Georgia signed a new, $200,000 lobbying contract with Scheunemann’s firm, Orion Strategies, according to the Post.

[McCain Campaign spokesman Brian] Rogers said Orion’s representation of Georgia had no bearing on McCain’s decision to speak with Saakashvili in April. “The Embassy of Georgia requested the call because of Georgian concerns over recent Russian actions dealing with South Ossetia and Abkhazia,” he said.

The McCain campaign said Scheunemann has not received any payments from his lobbying firm since May 15 — a few weeks after the Georgia contract was signed — when the campaign imposed strict new restrictions on lobbying by campaign staffers. And the campaign notes that Scheunemann de-registered as a lobbyist for Georgia in March.

But Scheunemann remains owner of the firm, according to the Wall Street Journal. It’s not a big firm — essentially including only one other person, Scheunemann’s partner, Mike Mitchell.

The firm has lobbied McCain’s senate office a lot over the past few years. Orion reports making at least 71 phone calls to McCain and his staffers since 2004 to lobby on behalf of foreign clients, including Georgia.

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