The day of the call, April 17, the firm partly owned by McCain adviser Randy Scheunemann signed a $200,000 contract to provide advice to the Georgian government in Washington, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
The McCain campaign said Georgia's lobbying contract with Orion Strategies didn't influence the presumptive Republican presidential candidate's decision to speak with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.
"The embassy of Georgia requested the call," campaign spokesman Brian Rogers said.
When McCain placed the call, Scheunemann had formally ended his lobbying work for Georgia, federal disclosure reports indicate. But he remained attached to Orion Strategies, which had only two lobbyists -- Scheunemann and Mike Mitchell. Scheunemann remained with Orion until May 15 when the McCain campaign imposed an anti-lobbyist policy and he was required to remove himself from the company.
Rogers told the Post Scheunemann "receives no compensation of any type from Orion Strategies and has not since May 15, 2008."
An ethicist, however, expressed concern about ex-lobbyists for foreign governments providing advice to presidential candidates about the countries they represented.
"The question is, who is the client? Is the adviser loyal to income from a foreign client, or is he loyal to the candidate he is working for now?" asked James Thurber, a lobbying expert at American University.
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