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MCCAIN'S TIES TO LOBBYIST QUESTIONED

Republican presidential hopeful John McCain issued a statement Wednesday night saying he "will not allow a smear campaign" to distract from his campaign as published reports questioned his relationship with a lobbyist.

The Washington Post quoted longtime aide John Weaver, who split with McCain last year, as saying he met with Vicki Iseman and urged her to stay away from McCain. The New York Times suggested an inappropriate relationship between the Arizona senator and Iseman, a Washington lobbyist. The New York Times quoted anonymous aides saying they had confronted McCain and Iseman, urging them to stay away from each other, before his failed presidential campaign in 2000.

Eight years later, McCain is close to securing the GOP nomination. Aides said the senator would address the allegations at a news conference this morning.

The reports said McCain and Iseman each denied having a romantic relationship, and the papers offered no evidence that they had, saying only that aides worried about the appearance of McCain having close ties to a lobbyist with business before the Senate Commerce Committee on which McCain served.

The New York Times alleges that McCain wrote letters and pushed legislation involving TV station ownership that would have benefited Iseman's clients.

In a statement issued by his presidential campaign, McCain spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said, "It is a shame that the New York Times has lowered its standards to engage in a hit-and-run smear campaign.

"John McCain has a 24-year record of serving our country with honor and integrity. He has never violated the public trust, never done favors for special interests or lobbyists, and he will not allow a smear campaign to distract from the issues at stake in this election."

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