ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) The man picked by the John McCain campaign to run the 2008 Republican National Convention resigned Saturday after a report that his lobbying firm used to represent the military regime in Myanmar.
Doug Goodyear resigned as convention coordinator and issued a brief statement:
"Today I offered the convention my resignation so as not to become a distraction in this campaign. I continue to strongly support John McCain for president, and wish him the best of luck in this campaign."
Goodyear, chief executive of lobbying firm DCI Group, resigned hours after Newsweek posted a story online that the company was paid $348,000 in 2002 and 2003 to represent Myanmar's junta.
"We respect Mr. Goodyear's decision, and look forward to the convention in September," said Brian Rogers, a spokesman for the McCain campaign.
Cyclone Nargis left more than 60,000 people dead or missing, and the U.N. estimates that at least 1.5 million people have been severely affected. Human rights organizations and dissident groups have bitterly accused the junta of neglecting disaster victims and blocking foreign donations of relief supplies.
Justice Department records covering agents of foreign agents that are required to register with the U.S. government show DCI signed a contract to work to "improve relations between the United States and Myanmar" and to act as the junta's public relations agent in Washington.
Newsweek said the firm drafted news releases praising Burma's efforts to curb the drug trade and denouncing claims by the Bush administration that the regime engaged in rape and other abuses.
"It was our only foreign representation, it was for a short tenure, and it was six years ago," Newsweek quoted Goodyear as saying. The magazine said Goodyear added that the junta's record in the current cyclone crisis is "reprehensible."
The Newsweek article also reported that some of Goodyear's allies worry that worry the choice of Goodyear could fuel perceptions that McCain is surrounded by lobbyists. DCI Group earned $3 million last year lobbying for ExxonMobil, General Motors and other clients, the report said.
Newsweek also reported DCI has been a pioneer in running "independent" expenditure campaigns by so-called 527 groups, the kind of operations that McCain has denounced in his battle for campaign finance reform.
The convention runs Sept. 1-4 at the Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul.