WASHINGTON - John McCain's national finance cochairman has stepped down, becoming the latest adviser to leave the Republican's presidential campaign because of ties to lobbyists.

Former Texas Rep. Thomas G. Loeffler, one of McCain's key fund-raisers, resigned after the campaign last week instructed staff to disclose all lobbying ties and to make certain they are not registered as lobbyists or foreign agents.

McCain's campaign confirmed Loeffler's resignation yesterday. The senator has often criticized the role of big money in elections.

Loeffler lobbies for the European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co., which, with Northrop Grumman Corp., won a lucrative contract to provide air refueling tankers for the Air Force. McCain helped scuttle an earlier contract that would have gone to a competitor, Boeing Co.

Newsweek said over the weekend that Loeffler's "lobbying firm has collected nearly $15 million from Saudi Arabia since 2002 and millions more from other foreign and corporate interests, including a French aerospace firm seeking Pentagon contracts."

McCain advisers Doug Goodyear, who was to run the Republican convention in St. Paul, Minn., and Doug Davenport, a regional campaign director for the Mid-Atlantic states, also resigned this month. Both worked for DCI Group, a consulting firm hired to improve the image of Myanmar's military junta.

McCain has fired energy policy adviser Eric Burgeson, who represents energy companies as a lobbyist.

- AP

Huckabee says he would love to run with McCain

WASHINGTON - Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said yesterday that he would love to be John McCain's running mate.

"There's no one I would rather be on a ticket with than John McCain," said Huckabee, who was a stronger-than-expected challenger against McCain for the Republican presidential nomination. "All during the campaign when I was his rival, not a running mate, there was no one who was more complimentary of him publicly and privately. . . . I still wanted to win, but if I couldn't, John McCain was always the guy I would have supported and have now supported.

"But whether or not I do the best for him, that's something that only he can decide," Huckabee said on NBC's

Meet the Press

.

Huckabee also apologized again for remarks he made Friday to the National Rifle Association. Responding to an offstage noise during a speech, Huckabee said it was Democrat Barack Obama diving to the floor after someone had aimed a gun at him.

"It was a dumb, off-the-cuff remark," he said.

- AP