Dems attack lobbying record of McCain’s VP vetter

Democrats on Thursday pounced on the lobbying background of Arthur B. Culvahouse, the former presidential counsel currently leading a quiet search for Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainOur military shouldn't be held hostage to 'water politics' Meghan McCain blames 'toxic' hostility for 'The View' exit Beware the tea party of the left MORE’s (R-Ariz.) running mate, and its similarity to that of Sen. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaEmanuel to take hot seat in Senate confirmation hearing Public officials are under physical and digital siege We must protect and support our health care safety net MORE’s (D-Ill.) top VP vetter who resigned Wednesday.

Culvahouse and his firm, O’Melveny & Myers, have lobbied for troubled mortgage firm Fannie Mae, defense giant Lockheed Martin, and Occidental Petroleum, the U.S.’s fourth-largest oil and gas firm.


Culvahouse is not listed as a current lobbyist with the Senate Office of Open Records, but has retained his position as chairman of O’Melveny & Myers, working out of the firm’s D.C. office.

According to, O’Melveny & Myers is being paid $100,000 from Occidental Petroleum this year, along with $30,000 from gas giant Hess Corp. In the past decade, the firm has received $120,000 from Fannie Mae and $220,000 from Lockheed Martin in 2000.

Democratic attorney Jim Johnson, Fannie Mae’s CEO from 1991 to 1998, resigned from Obama’s VP selection team this week after The Wall Street Journal reported he had received unusually generous loans. Johnson is still a paid consultant to Fannie Mae.

The lobbying disclosures mean Culvahouse was lobbying for Fannie Mae during at least one year when Johnson was leading it.

Senate Majority Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinEmanuel to take hot seat in Senate confirmation hearing Manchin, Tester voice opposition to carbon tax Democrats feel high anxiety in Biden spending conflict MORE (D-Ill.), co-chairman of Obama’s campaign, said Culvahouse’s background is as relevant as that of Johnson.

“What happened to Jim Johnson is an indication that they have to be prepared to live by the same standards,” Durbin said of the McCain campaign.

“We do not discuss client matters,” said Culvahouse, who responded to The Hill in an e-mail he sent while overseas on business.

A request for comment from the McCain campaign directly was not answered.

But other Republicans rushed to Culvahouse’s defense. Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderMcConnell gets GOP wake-up call The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats return to disappointment on immigration Authorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate MORE (R-Tenn.), who has known Culvahouse since the two native Tennesseans worked for Sen. Howard Baker (R-Tenn.), said Culvahouse is “one of America’s best-respected and most able lawyers.”

Culvahouse’s counsel to Reagan during the Iran-Contra hearings also should not harm McCain, Alexander said.

“That’s what lawyers do, they help clients deal with problems and President Reagan had a problem,” Alexander said. “If he was President Reagan’s lawyer in 1987 and 1988 and he was not involved in Iran-Contra, he should have been fired for malpractice.”

But Democrats said Johnson’s resignation from Obama’s search team means that McCain’s own campaign should match those standards.

“If you’re going to push to raise standards on the other side, it seems to me that you’d want to make sure you meet those standards on your own side,” said Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.).

Manu Raju contributed to this report