McCain uses NYT story to raise funds

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is trying to turn into campaign cash a controversial story hinting at an improper relationship he is alleged to have had with a lobbyist.

The McCain campaign wasted little time in trying to capitalize on the story, which has incensed conservatives and which the senator and his aides have debunked as a smear campaign by The New York Times.

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In an e-mail to supporters, campaign manager Rick Davis characterized The New York Times as having “toss[ed] standards aside in an attempt to stop our momentum.” With “immediate help” from supporters, Davis wrote, “we’ll be able to respond and defend our nominee from the liberal attack machine.”

The line, along with another in the e-mail, contains a link to a page asking for online contributions.  

During a press conference Thursday morning, McCain said the story is not true and expressed his disappointment in the paper.

Reactions from McCain surrogates and leading conservative voices have not been as tempered. In the e-mail, Davis reminded supporters that the paper “gave MoveOn.org a sweetheart deal to run advertisements attacking General [David] Petraeus” and said The New York Times “has shown once again that it cannot exercise good journalistic judgment when it comes to dealing with a conservative Republican.”

The campaign manager’s rhetoric and arguments follow the line taken by McCain supporters and conservatives throughout the day on cable news and in other media outlets.

Despite taking command of the Republican nomination fight, McCain’s campaign fundraising effort lags far behind those of Democratic rivals Sens. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.).

The McCain campaign did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

In a similar appeal, Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan also solicited contributions.

“The New York Times has proven once again that the liberal mainstream media will do whatever it takes to put Senator Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama in the White House,” Duncan said in an e-mail. “From the beginning of Campaign 2008, liberal media pundits have fawned over the Democrat presidential candidates while ignoring their lack of substance on the issues. You can be certain that as the campaign heats up they will continue to mislead voters with their anti-Republican agenda. Republicans must fight back against the mainstream media's clear liberal bias — and we need your help to do it.”