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Vicki Iseman-John McCain Controversy: A Warning Tale of Lobbying and Conflicts of Interest



Vicki Iseman, a prominent Washington lobbyist, made headlines in February 2008 when The New York Times published a story alleging she had an affair with Senator John McCain (then running for president).

This story ignited a controversy that raised concerns about the ethics of political lobbying and potential conflicts of interest that may arise due to close ties between lobbyists and politicians.

The Allegations

Vicki Iseman

Vicki Iseman

A New York Times story entitled “For McCain, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Its Own Risk” suggested that Vicki Iseman had an intimate relationship with McCain that had caused concern among his top aides.

The story cited anonymous sources who claimed Iseman had accompanied McCain on business trips and made calls to the Federal Communications Commission regarding a merger proposal involving her company.

The story also suggested that Iseman had used her connection with McCain to further Iseman’s interests in other areas.

The Fallout

The revelation of the alleged affair ignited a media frenzy, with other news outlets picking up on it and starting their own investigations. McCain’s campaign strongly denied all allegations and accused The New York Times of using smear tactics against them.

The paper stood by its reporting, asserting that it had a duty to cover issues that reflect on the character and conduct of a presidential candidate.

This controversy had a lasting effect on McCain’s campaign, which struggled to recover after the scandal broke. Although McCain eventually secured the Republican nomination, he ultimately fell short in the general election against Barack Obama.

The Repercussions

Iseman sued The New York Times for defamation, claiming that their story had damaged her reputation and caused her emotional distress. Ultimately, however, the judge dismissed her lawsuit without finding evidence of falsehood or malice on behalf of either party.

The controversy surrounding Iseman and McCain raised challenging questions about lobbying in politics and potential conflicts of interest. Critics noted that their relationship was an example of incestuous connections between lobbyists and politicians, suggesting such connections undermine the integrity of the political process.


Vicki Iseman and John McCain’s story serves as a cautionary tale about political lobbying, its potential risks, and ethical complexities that arise when close relationships develop between lobbyists and politicians. While it had little impact on Iseman’s career ultimately, it served as a stark reminder of why greater transparency and accountability is so important in Washington’s influence industry.

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