In response to reporters, McCain referred to the lobbyist Vicki Iseman as his "friend." But what, exactly, is a friend in Washington? Journalists are friends with their sources to get them to leak information. Politicians are friends with journalists to spin them. Lobbyists are friends with politicians to get them to support legislation that helps clients. Politicians are friends with lobbyists to get campaign contributions. "If you want a real friend in Washington," goes the old saying, "get a dog."
It's often more complicated than that. Iseman, who was a 32-year-old, attractive, single woman when she began lobbying McCain in 1999, may have enjoyed flirting with a war hero who is fun to be around. If McCain, a married man who was 63 at the time, wasn't a little flattered by the attention, he would be unusual. But that doesn't mean they were sleeping together or that he was performing legislative favors for her.
Still, The New York Times implied as much. In a front-page article reviewing McCain's long history with lobbyists, but zeroing in on Iseman's ties to the Arizona senator when he was preparing to run for president in 1999, the Times wrote: "Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself—instructing staff members to block the woman's access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity."