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McCain drops objection to Lynn appointment

WASHINGTON — Sen. John McCain will no longer hold up the nomination of William Lynn, whose appointment to become deputy defense secretary ran counter to President Barack Obama's own rule against "revolving door" lobbyists.

The decision by McCain, announced by a spokeswoman Monday, removes a major roadblock for Lynn's appointment. A Senate vote on Lynn's nomination had been put on hold pending inquiry by McCain, the top Republican on Armed Services Committee.

McCain spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan wrote in an e-mail that the senator will allow the nomination to proceed after having received from Lynn more specifics on his lobbying work for Raytheon Co., a top military contractor that attracted more than $18 billion in government business in 2007.

She declined to say whether McCain planned to vote for Lynn.

"Mr. Lynn addressed Senator McCain's concerns adequately" and McCain "intends to move forward with the nomination process," wrote Buchanan.

On his first day in office, Obama issed an executive order forcing individuals to wait two years before they could be hired for the agencies they had lobbied and to recuse themselves from involvement in issues related to their former employers.

But the Obama administration granted Lynn a waiver, saying he represented a rare exception.

Instead of being recused from all matters related to Raytheon, Lynn would be required over the next year to seek written approval from Pentagon lawyers when "circumstances would cause a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts to question my impartiality," according to a Jan. 28 letter from Lynn to McCain.

In a Jan. 30 letter, obtained by The Associated Press, Lynn told McCain he lobbied Congress in 2007 and 2008 on "only a handful" of programs: the DDG-1000 surface combatant, the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, the F-15 airborne radar, the Army Patriot "Pure Fleet" program, the Future Imagery Architecture and the Multiple Kill Vehicle.

He said he lobbied the Defense Department on only one program — the Multiple Kill Vehicle, a technology designed to counter ballistic missiles.

While McCain may be appeased, Lynn's appointment could still face trouble in the Senate. Last week, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, accused him of shoddy budget practices while serving as the department's chief financial officer during the Clinton administration.

Grassley also opposed Lynn's lobbying ties and demanded more information.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that even the toughest rules require "reasonable exceptions" and that the waiver provisions were added to allow "uniquely qualified individuals" like Lynn to serve.

Last week in congressional testimony, Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned against implementing ethics requirements that are so strict no one can meet them. Gates asked that Lynn be appointed as his deputy.

To meet separate ethics requirements stipulated by the Senate Armed Services Committee, Lynn agreed to sell his Raytheon stock and other defense holdings within 90 days of his confirmation. Financial disclosure documents show Lynn owns Raytheon "incentive" stock valued up to $1 million and "unvested, restricted stock" worth up to $500,000.