I just got off the phone with John Weaver, the former top McCain campaign official who is now an informal adviser to the campaign. I asked him about his 1999 meeting on the campaign’s behalf with lobbyist Vicki Iseman. He said he “had no reason to think” that McCain might have been having an affair with Iseman, but he was concerned about word he had heard suggesting that Iseman was telling associates she had connections with McCain. “This was a woman who was saying that she had special influence with John’s committee staff and with him,” Weaver told me. “I didn’t believe that was the case.”
“When you hear back from several people that this person is saying they can get anything done, then that is alarming,” Weaver continued. So Weaver met with Iseman, at a Union Station restaurant, and told her to back off. He told me he didn’t exactly say, “Get lost,” but that that was the gist of it. “The discussion lasted all of five or six minutes in which I told her to cut that stuff out,” Weaver told me. “I said, ‘You need to stop this.’” Iseman’s response, according to Weaver: “She was not happy.”
It is not all that unusual for lobbyists to spread the word that they have good access with lawmakers; it’s the currency of the realm in that business. “If a newspaper is going to run stories about lobbyists who claim they have special relationships with members of Congress, it will run out of ink,” Weaver said.
Weaver told me he was contacted by the New York Times in December — he doesn’t remember the precise day but says it was around the holidays. The Times wanted to do an interview; Weaver asked for written questions. Weaver told me the paper’s reporters knew about the meeting with Iseman, asked a question about it, and he answered it, also in writing. (Weaver told me he did not answer the Times’ other questions, because, he said, he didn’t know anything about the specific legislative issues involved.) Weaver also told me that he emailed the McCain campaign exactly what he sent the Times, on the same day he sent it. Weaver told me the Times quoted his response on the Iseman question in its entirety.
I asked about the implications heard in some reports that Weaver, who left the McCain campaign during last summer’s blow up, is disgruntled. Absolutely not, he told me. “From the day I left the campaign, including holidays — Christmas, Thanksgiving, Labor Day — not one day has gone by when I haven’t talked to the campaign,” Weaver told me. He is regular contact with top officials Salter, Charles Black, Steve Schmidt, as well as McCain himself and several of the campaign’s surrogates. Weaver stressed that he would not do anything to harm the campaign. “When I first approached John about running for president in 1997, I badly wanted him to be president,” Weaver told me. “And today, I badly want him to be president.”