Reporter Michael Isikoff's story of John McCain's unethical relationship with lobbyist Vicki Iseman is up at Newsweek! It's been speculated that news that Isikoff was working on the story is one of the many factors that prompted the New York Times to "rush" their version into print earlier this week. Isikoff's story comes with a nice little mini-bombshell: proof that McCain already lied in his "sweeping denial" of the Times story!

In McCain's huge rebuttal to the Times, McCain claimed no one from Iseman's firm, Alcade & Fay, or her client Paxson Communications asked McCain to send a letter to the FCC. It's not a particularly believable claim, but it's handy that its refutation comes from a sworn deposition delivered by the Maverick Arizona Senator in 2002.

"I was contacted by Mr. Paxson on this issue," McCain said in the Sept. 25, 2002, deposition obtained by NEWSWEEK. "He wanted their approval very bad for purposes of his business. I believe that Mr. Paxson had a legitimate complaint."

While McCain said "I don't recall" if he ever directly spoke to the firm's lobbyist about the issue—an apparent reference to Iseman, though she is not named—"I'm sure I spoke to [Paxson]." McCain agreed that his letters on behalf of Paxson, a campaign contributor, could "possibly be an appearance of corruption"—even though McCain denied doing anything improper.

McCain's campaign insists there is some niggling way in which their former blanket denial could still be true, but it's a hopeless cause as in the deposition transcript McCain basically says variations on "Paxson called me up and I spoke to him" a good half-dozen times.

It's hard to tell this early whether this will move the "McCain is a hypocrite" story or whether "the Times should be ashamed of itself" will continue to dominate.

(Sadly, no news on the lobbyist-fucking angle of the story.)

A Hole in McCain's Defense? [Newsweek]