Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Renzi, Rick

Rick Renzi, Republican Congressman, Indicted by U.S.

Feb. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Representative Rick Renzi, a Republican from Arizona who isn't seeking re-election, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in an alleged scheme to profit from a land deal.

Renzi, 49, who was first elected to the House in 2002, was charged along with James Sandlin, 56, a real estate investor and one of his political backers, and Andrew Beardall, 36, an attorney who had been general counsel of Renzi's family insurance business. Renzi and Beardall are accused of embezzling money from insurance clients to fund the lawmaker's congressional campaign.

``Congressman Renzi misused his public office by forcing a land sale that would financially benefit himself and a business associate, and in so doing, he betrayed the trust of the citizens of Arizona,'' said U.S. Attorney Diane Humetewa of Phoenix in a statement.

The Justice Department has been cracking down on public corruption, a campaign that has targeted lawmakers. Democratic Representative William Jefferson of Louisiana has pleaded innocent to bribery charges, and, in 2007, ex-Ohio Republican Representative Bob Ney was sentenced to 2½ years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy and making false statements in connection with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Renzi's Washington lawyers, Reid Weingarten and Kelly Kramer, issued a statement saying Renzi did ``nothing wrong'' and criticizing the Justice Department for bringing its case shortly after his father's death. ``We will fight these charges until he is vindicated and his family's name is restored,'' they said.

`Feel for the Family'

Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican and the party's presumed presidential nominee, told reporters today when asked about the indictment that ``you always feel for the family.'' McCain, speaking after a rally in Indianapolis, said he didn't know enough details to make a judgment on the case.

The U.S. alleged that Renzi offered to sponsor legislation to help a company seeking to swap land with the federal government if it purchased property owned by Sandlin. Renzi, who sat on a committee that approved such deals, told the company in early 2005 that he wouldn't support the request if it didn't buy the land, according to the indictment. No deal was made.
Later, Renzi pressured a separate investment group, also looking for approval of a land exchange, to purchase the property, prosecutors said. That group agreed to buy 480 acres from Sandlin for $4.6 million in April 2005, the government said.

Renzi, according to the indictment, told the investment group it would have a ``free pass'' through his panel, the Natural Resources Committee.

Financial Difficulties

While the land negotiations were under way, according to court papers, Sandlin owed Renzi $700,000. Renzi was having financial difficulties as well, the government said.
Renzi also failed to publicly disclose Sandlin's debt and its repayment after the land sale, according to the indictment.

The lawmaker and attorney Beardall were charged with conspiring to steal more than $400,000 from Renzi's insurance business from December 2001 through June 2003. The money was used to fund Renzi's campaign for Congress, according to court papers.
The 35-count indictment, issued in Arizona, includes charges of conspiracy, money laundering, insurance fraud and wire fraud. The arraignment will be on March 6 in U.S. District Court in Tucson, the Justice Department said.

The Renzi investigation was highlighted during a congressional inquiry last year into the Bush administration's firings of nine U.S. attorneys. One of the dismissed prosecutors, Paul Charlton, had been in charge of the probe.

Democrats said the firings may have been carried out to slow public corruption cases against Republicans. Though that was never proved, the scandal drove Attorney General Alberto Gonzales from office in September.

To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Schmidt in Washington at rschmidt5@bloomberg.net

Original post: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=abww0WDvKVMU&refer=us

McCain, John

McCain's Double Standard: Hawk In The Drug War, Yet His Wife Got No Penalty
by Stanton Peele

Much has been made of allegations of possible youthful use of illegal drugs by Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush. Meanwhile, his chief GOP opponent, Arizona Sen. John McCain, has admitted that his wife not only illegally used drugs but walked away from criminal charges. The McCains have worked to make Cindy McCain's addiction into a political asset--despite the fact that she stole the drugs from a charity she directed and used them while mothering four young children.

In 1994, Mrs. McCain admitted that she had solicited prescriptions for painkillers from physicians who worked for an international charity that she founded, the American Voluntary Medical Team. She then filled the prescriptions in the names of her staff.

There are two ways to react to this behavior. According to the Betty Ford model, people can sympathetically respond to the oppressed and ignored wife of a busy politician who has bravely come forward to admit her overpowering addiction. Mrs. McCain took this posture when she first tearfully confessed her addiction. She and her husband repeated this performance in October on the NBC program "Dateline."

The other possible public reaction is one of anger. Americans are prosecuted every day for such drug use. While most drug abusers purchase their drugs from street dealers, Mrs. McCain used her status as a charity director and senator's wife to cajole the drugs she wanted.

In fact, Mrs. McCain was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration after the agency was approached by a former staff member of her charity. The investigation resulted in no charges or prison time for her, and she entered a diversion program. While these records were not made public at the time, Mrs. McCain eventually confessed her drug use when she learned that a reporter was investigating the story.

Is Mrs. McCain to be judged as a pitiable victim or as a criminal felon? This debate is at the heart of the discussion of American drug policy. Should we deal with illicit drug users as victims or as criminals?

Let's examine Mrs. McCain's position in these terms. She was the privileged wife of a prominent family and spouse of an important politician, a person who had her own position of prestige and power. Should she not be held at least as accountable for her actions as an uneducated inner-city drug user? After all, she could enter drug treatment at any time she chose, unlike many drug users who find themselves in prison.

Moreover, Mrs. McCain was violating a position of trust by stealing from a charitable organization, using its money and medical expertise to fuel her drug use. Is this not morally more reprehensible than simply purchasing drugs illegally?

Finally, Mrs. McCain was the mother of four children at the time she admits to using drugs--between 1989 and 1992. Her children were born in 1984, 1986, 1988 and 1991. In other words, Cindy McCain was using drugs while raising small children, one of whom she adopted while she was an addict. In most states, family services will remove children from a woman who is known to be an active drug addict, and she would certainly not be allowed to adopt a child while addicted.

John McCain is a hawk in the drug war. He advocates stricter drug laws, penalties and enforcement against drug sellers. He has had nothing to say about redressing our punitive approach toward drug users. Of course, McCain also supports family values. Yet if John and Cindy McCain were not well-off and influential, they might not have a family at all. McCain's lack of concern for street drug users contrasts sharply with the support and understanding his wife received. It's the old American double standard. For "straight-shooter" McCain, charity begins at home--and ends there.

- - - Stanton Peele, a New Jersey Psychologist and Attorney and Author of "Diseasing of America" (Jossey-bass, 1995), Is a Senior Fellow of the Lindesmith Center, a Drug Policy Think Tank in New York and San Francisco

Original post: http://www.commondreams.org/views/021400-102.htm

McCain, John

HuffPost Exclusive: More Lobbyists On McCain Staff Than Any Other 08 Candidate

John McCain, who made his name attacking special interests, has more lobbyists working on his staff or as advisers than any of his competitors, Republican or Democrat.

A Huffington Post examination of the campaigns of the top three presidential candidates in each party shows that lobbyists are playing key roles in both Democratic and Republican bids --although they are far more prevalent on the GOP side. But, all the campaigns pale in comparison to McCain's, whose rhetoric stands in sharp contrast to his conduct.

"Too often the special interest lobbyists with the fattest wallets and best access carry the day when issues of public policy are being decided," McCain asserts on his web site, declaring that he "has fought the 'revolving door' by which lawmakers and other influential officials leave their posts and become lobbyists for the special interests they have aided."

In actual practice, at least two of McCain's top advisers fit precisely the class of former elected officials he criticizes so sharply. On March 7, 2007, McCain named ex-Texas Representative Tom Loeffler, who has one of the most lucrative and influential practices in the nation's capital, as his campaign co-chair. In the same month, McCain named former Washington Sen. Slade Gorton, now a heavyweight lobbyist, as his honorary chairman for Washington state.

Loeffler's client list includes PhRMA, the drug industry association; Southwest Airlines; Toyota; and Martin Marietta. Gorton represents, among others, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., Weyerhaeuser and Fidelity National Financial.

In addition, David Crane, now the campaign's senior policy advisor, was a senior executive at The Washington Group, a firm with 2006 billings of $10.4 million and 52 clients, including Delta Airlines, the Association of American Railroads, and the governments of Panama and Bangladesh. And Charlie Black, who is now a campaign spokesman appearing on McCain's behalf on radio, television, and as a "spin-doctor" after debates, is chairman of BKSH & Associates, with lobbying billings of $7.6 million in 2006, representing J.P. Morgan, Occidental and General Motors.

All told, there are 11 current or former lobbyists working for or advising McCain, at least double the number in any other campaign. Among the current and former lobbyists working for McCain are: Campaign CEO Rick Davis, a partner at Davis Manafort, where his clients have included SBC Communications and Verizon; and former Davis Manafort associate, National eCampaign Director Christian Ferry. At the end of 2006, Mike Dennehy, who founded The Dennehy Group, a New Hampshire lobbying firm, was appointed McCain's national political director. He gave up that post in May to become a senior campaign advisor
McCain's deputy communications director Danny Diaz did not reply to questions about the campaign's policies governing the activities of lobbyists.

McCain is not the only Republican to depend substantially on the help of lobbyists. In January, 2007, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney picked Vin Weber, a member of Congress from Minnesota until 1992, to be his policy chairman. "As I continue building a national organization, he [Weber] will be an important voice in advancing my agenda to move the country forward," Romney said.

Considered one of Washington's "super lobbyists," Weber counts among his clients such drug industry powerhouses as PhRMA and Pfizer; accounting firms Ernst & Young, KPMG and Deloitte Touche, along with such companies as Microsoft and Ebay.

Senior Romney adviser Ron Kaufman is a managing partner at the lobbying firm Dutko Worldwide. Romney also hired lobbyist Tony Feather, whose close ties to the Bush administration have given his clients exceptional access to power, as a top political consultant.
Rudy Giuliani is less reliant on big league lobbyists. The chair of his Justice Advisory Committee, Theodore Olson, was a registered lobbyist last year for Hoffmann-LaRouche. Senior communications advisor Michael McKeon is a partner at Mercury Public Affairs a federal and state lobbying firm which "specializes in high-value public affairs at the intersection of business, government, politics, and media." But Giuliani himself is a partner in the firm Bracewell & Giuliani, and in the most recent filing period, the second half of 2006, the firm represented 90 clients before the federal government. Bracewell & Giuliani, which is headquartered in Texas, specializes in advancing the interests of energy companies, along with such businesses as CSX Transportation and the Power Tool Institute. Bracewell & Giuliani's managing partner, Patrick Oxford, is the chairman of the Giuliani campaign. Although the firm and many of its lawyers are registered lobbyists, neither Giuliani norOxford are personally registered.

On the other side of the aisle, Democratic campaigns have fewer ties with lobbyists.
Of the leading Democratic candidates, Barack Obama is the least entangled with K Street. His campaign has no lobbyists on the payroll or serving as key advisers.

Obama is followed by John Edwards. Nick Baldick, a senior Edwards adviser, is not a registered lobbyist, but he is the founder of Hilltop Public Solutions. Hilltop "manages its national network of state affiliates to build support for our clients' public policy goals," boasting of victories for "the nation's largest financial services firm, one of the nation's largest airlines, a major fast food retailer, the world's largest healthcare provider, and numerous additional industry leaders."
The Edwards campaign political director, David Medina, was a lobbyist for the AFL-CIO from 1998 to 2003.

While falling short of McCain's ties to lobbying networks, Hillary Clinton has made the most use, among Democrats, of the special interest community.

Chief Clinton consigliere Harold Ickes represents the International Dairy Food Association, Equitas, and TransCanada Pipelines. Finance Director Jonathan Mantz came to the campaign from the PodestaMatoon lobbying firm where his clients included Sigma Tau Pharmaceuticals, General Dynamics, and United Airlines.

Clinton's chief strategist, Mark Penn, is president and CEO of Burson-Marsteller, a public relations behemoth in the nation's capital. Although Penn is not a registered lobbyist, his company is part of the WWP Group conglomerate, a "family of companies" including such heavy hitting lobbying firms as BKSH (Alcoa, Kaiser Aluminum, AT&T) and Quinn & Gillespie (Bristol Myers Squibb, Qualcomm, and Microsoft).

Penn's controversial role has been written up by Ari Berman in The Nation and in the Washington Post .

The growing role of lobbyists reflects a major change in their status in campaigns. Once consigned to conducting their work in secret, lobbyists now thrive on publicity, routinely appearing on television as political commentators. Even running for office is no longer out of the question: a stint as a lobbyist did not prevent Jim Talent from winning a seat from Missouri in the U.S. Senate nor did one of the most powerful lobbying careers in history hamper Haley Barbour's successful 2003 bid to become governor of Mississippi.

Original post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2007/06/23/huffpost-exclusive-more-_n_53456.html

McCain, John

The Keating Five
Dan Nowicki, Bill Muller The Arizona Republic

CHAPTER VII: THE KEATING FIVE As a war hero and U.S. senator, John McCain has been chronicled in pictures. There are grainy mug shots of a young McCain, printed in U.S. newspapers after his jet was shot down over North Vietnam. There are black-and-white images of his return, grinning and waving.

In happier times, there is McCain holding his newborn daughter while his wife, Cindy, smiles from her hospital bed. But it is an innocent vacation picture that carries the reminder of the scandal that threatened his political career. In the picture, taken in the Bahamas, McCain is seated on a bandstand while wearing an outrageous straw party hat. Next to him on the dais sits Charles Keating III, son of developer Charles H Keating Jr. McCain calls the Keating scandal "my asterisk." Over the years, his opponents have failed to turn it into a period. It all started in March 1987. Charles H Keating Jr., the flamboyant developer and anti-porn crusader, needed help. The government was poised to seize Lincoln Savings and Loan, a freewheeling subsidiary of Keating's American Continental Corp. As federal auditors examined Lincoln, Keating was not content to wait and hope for the best. He had spread a lot of money around Washington, and it was time to call in his chits. One of his first stops was Sen. Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz.The state's senior senator was one of Keating's most loyal friends in Congress, and for good reason. Keating had given thousands of dollars to DeConcini's campaigns. At one point, DeConcini even pushed Keating for ambassador to the Bahamas, where Keating owned a luxurious vacation home. Now Keating had a job for DeConcini. He wanted him to organize a meeting with regulators to deliver a message: Get off Lincoln's back. Eventually, DeConcini would set up a meeting with five senators and the regulators. One of them was McCain. McCain already knew Keating well. His ties to the home builder dated to 1981, when the two men met at a Navy League dinner where McCain spoke. After the speech, Keating walked up to McCain and told him that he, too, was a Navy flier and that he greatly respected McCain's war record. He met McCain's wife and family. The two men became friends. Charlie Keating always took care of his friends, especially those in politics. McCain was no exception. In 1982, during McCain's first run for the House, Keating held a fund-raiser for him, collecting more than $11,000 from 40 employees of American Continental Corp. McCain would spend more than $550,000 to win the primary and the general election. In 1983, as McCain contemplated his House re-election, Keating hosted a $1,000-a-plate dinner for him, even though McCain had no serious competition. When McCain pushed for the Senate in 1986, Keating was there with more than $50,000. By 1987, McCain had received about $112,000 in political contributions from Keating and his associates. McCain also had carried a little water for Keating in Washington. While in the House, McCain, along with a majority of representatives, co-sponsored a resolution to delay new regulations designed to curb risky investments by thrifts such as Lincoln.

Reluctant participant Despite his history with Keating, McCain was hesitant about intervening. At that point, he had been in the Senate only three months. DeConcini wanted McCain to fly to San Francisco with him and talk to the regulators. McCain refused. Keating would not be dissuaded. On March 24 at 9:30 a.m., Keating went to DeConcini's office and asked him if the meeting with the regulators was on. DeConcini told Keating that McCain was nervous. "McCain's a wimp," Keating replied, according to the book Trust Me, by Michael Binstein and Charles Bowden. "We'll go talk to him." Keating had other business on Capitol Hill and did not reach McCain's office until 1:30. A DeConcini staffer already had told McCain about the "wimp" insult. When he arrived, Keating presented McCain with a laundry list of demands for the regulators. McCain told Keating that he would attend the meeting and find out whether Keating was getting treated fairly but that was all. The first meeting, on April 2, 1987, in DeConcini's office, included Ed Gray, chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, as well as four senators: DeConcini, McCain, Alan Cranston, D-Calif., and John Glenn, D-Ohio. (Years later, McCain recalled that DeConcini started the meeting with a reference to "our friend at Lincoln." McCain characterized it as "an unfortunate choice of words, which Gray would remember and repeat publicly many times.")For Keating, the meeting was a bust. Gray told the senators that as head of the loan board, he worried about the big picture. He didn't have any specific information about Lincoln. Bank regulators in San Francisco would be versed in that, not him. Gray offered to set up a meeting between the senators and the San Francisco regulators. The second meeting was April 9. The same four senators attended, along with Sen. Don Riegle, D-Mich. Also at the meeting were William Black, then deputy director of the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp., James Cirona, president of the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, and Michael Patriarca, director of agency functions at the FSLIC. In an interview with The Republic, Black said the meeting was a show of force by Keating, who wanted the senators to pressure the regulators into dropping their case against Lincoln. The thrift was in trouble for violating "direct investment" rules, which prohibited S&Ls from taking large ownership positions in various ventures. "The Senate is a really small club, like the cliche goes," Black said. "And you really did have one-twentieth of the Senate in one room, called by one guy, who was the biggest crook in the S&L debacle." Black said the senators could have accomplished their goal "if they had simply had us show up and see this incredible room and said, 'Hi. Charles Keating asked us to meet with you. 'Bye.'"McCain previously had refused DeConcini's request to meet with the Lincoln auditors themselves. In Worth the Fighting For, McCain wrote that he remained "a little troubled" at the prospect, "but since the chairman of the bank board didn't seem to have a problem with the idea, maybe a discussion with the regulators wouldn't be as problematic as I had earlier thought."McCain concedes that he failed to sense that Gray and the thrift examiners felt threatened by the senators' meddling.

'Always Hamlet' The five senators, including McCain, seemed like a united front to Black. "They presented themselves as a group," Black said, "and DeConcini is the dad, who's going to take the primary speaking role. Both meetings are in his office, and in both cases it's we want this, with no one going, 'What do you mean we, kemo sabe?'" According to nearly verbatim notes taken by Black, McCain started the second meeting with a careful comment. "One of our jobs as elected officials is to help constituents in a proper fashion," McCain said. "ACC (American Continental Corp.) is a big employer and important to the local economy. I wouldn't want any special favors for them. . . . "I don't want any part of our conversation to be improper." Black said the comment had the opposite effect for the regulators. It made them nervous about what might really be going on. "McCain was the weirdest," Black said. "They were all different in their own way. McCain was always Hamlet . . . wringing his hands about what to do." Glenn, a former astronaut and the first American to orbit the Earth, was not as tactful. "To be blunt, you should charge them or get off their backs," he told the regulators. "If things are bad there, get to them. Their view is that they took a failing business and put it back on its feet. It's now viable and profitable. They took it off the endangered species list. Why has the exam dragged on and on and on?" DeConcini added: "What's wrong with this if they're willing to clean up their act?" Cirona, the banking official, told the senators that it was "very unusual" to hold a meeting to discuss a particular company. DeConcini shot back: "It's very unusual for us to have a company that could be put out of business by its regulators." The meeting went on. McCain was quiet. DeConcini carried the ball. The regulators told the senators that Lincoln was in trouble. The thrift, Cirona said, was a "ticking time bomb." Then Patriarca made a stunning comment, according to transcripts released later. "We're sending a criminal referral to the Department of Justice," he said. "Not maybe, we're sending one. This is an extraordinarily serious matter. It involves a whole range of imprudent actions. I can't tell you strongly enough how serious this is. This is not a profitable institution." The statement made DeConcini back off a little. "The criminality surprises me," he said. "We're not interested in discussing those issues. Our premise was that we had a viable institution concerned that it was being overregulated." "What can we say to Lincoln?" Glenn asked. "Nothing," Black responded, "with regard to the criminal referral. They haven't and won't be told by us that we're making one." "You haven't told them?" Glenn asked. "No," said Black. "Justice would skin us alive if we did. Those referrals are very confidential. We can't prosecute anyone ourselves. All we can do is refer it to Justice." After the meeting, McCain was done with Keating. "Again, I was troubled by the appearance of the meeting," McCain said later. "I stated I didn't want any special favors from them. I only wanted them (Lincoln Savings) to be fairly treated." Black doesn't completely buy that argument. If McCain was concerned about Keating asking him to do things that were improper, why go to either meeting at all? Black said McCain probably went because Keating was close to being the political godfather of Arizona and McCain still had plenty of ambition. "Keating was incredibly powerful," Black said. "And incredibly useful." McCain's reservations aside, Keating accomplished his goal. He had bought some time, though the price was very high.

Short-lived reprieve A month later, the San Francisco regulators finished a yearlong audit and recommended that Lincoln be seized. But the report was virtually ignored because of politics on the bank board. Gray was being replaced as chairman by Danny Wall, who was more sympathetic to Keating. The audit, which described Lincoln as a thrift reeling out of control, sat on a shelf. In September 1987, the investigation was taken away from the San Francisco office, away from Black and Patriarca. In May 1988, it was transferred to Washington, where Lincoln would get a new audit. It was a win for Keating. A battle, not the war. Back in San Francisco, Black was fuming. "Clearly, we were shot in the back," he would say later. Despite the reprieve, Keating's businesses continued to spiral downward, taking the five senators with him. Together, the five had accepted more than $300,000 in contributions from Keating, and their critics added a new term to the American lexicon: "The Keating Five."The Keating Five became synonymous for the kind of political influence that money can buy. As the S&L failure deepened, the sheer magnitude of the losses hit the press. Billions of dollars had been squandered. The five senators were linked as the gang who shilled for an S&L bandit. S&L "trading cards" came out. The Keating Five card showed Charles Keating holding up his hand, with a senator's head adorning each finger. McCain was on Keating's pinkie. As the investigation dragged through 1988, McCain dodged the hardest blows. Most landed on DeConcini, who had arranged the meetings and had other close ties to Keating, including $50 million in loans from Keating to DeConcini's aides. But McCain made a critical error. He had adopted the blanket defense that Keating was a constituent and that he had every right to ask his senators for help. In attending the meetings, McCain said, he simply wanted to make sure that Keating was treated like any other constituent. Keating was no ordinary constituent to McCain. On Oct. 8, 1989, The Arizona Republic revealed that McCain's wife and her father had invested $359,100 in a Keating shopping center in April 1986, a year before McCain met with the regulators. The paper also reported that the McCains, sometimes accompanied by their daughter and baby-sitter, had made at least nine trips at Keating's expense, sometimes aboard the American Continental jet. Three of the trips were made during vacations to Keating's opulent Bahamas retreat at Cat Cay. McCain also did not pay Keating for some of the trips until years after they were taken, after he learned that Keating was in trouble over Lincoln. Total cost: $13,433. When the story broke, McCain did nothing to help himself. "You're a liar," McCain said when a Republic reporter asked him about the business relationship between his wife and Keating. "That's the spouse's involvement, you idiot," McCain said later in the same conversation. "You do understand English, don't you?" He also belittled reporters when they asked about his wife's ties to Keating. "It's up to you to find that out, kids." The paper ran the story. In his 2002 book, McCain confesses to "ridiculously immature behavior" during that particular interview and adds that The Republic reporters' "persistence in questioning me about the matter provoked me to rage.""I don't know how (The Republic journalists) would have reported the story had I been more civil and understanding or just more of a professional during the interview," McCain wrote.At a news conference after the story ran, McCain was a changed man. He stood calmly for 90 minutes and answered every question. On the shopping center, his defense was simple. The deal did not involve him. The shares in the shopping center had been bought by a partnership set up between McCain's wife and her father. (The couple also had a prenuptial agreement that separated Cindy McCain's finances and dealings from his.)But McCain also had to explain his trips with Keating and why he didn't pay Keating back right away. On that score, McCain admitted he had fouled up. He said he should have reimbursed Keating immediately, not waited several years. His staff said it was an oversight, but it looked bad, McCain jetting around with Keating, then going to bat for him with the federal regulators. "I was in a hell of a mess," McCain later would write.Meanwhile, Lincoln continued to founder. In April 1989, two years after the Keating Five meetings, the government seized Lincoln, which declared bankruptcy.

In September 1990, Keating was booked into Los Angeles County Jail, charged with 42 counts of fraud. His bond was set at $5 million. During Keating's trial, the prosecution produced a parade of elderly investors who had lost their life's savings by investing in American Continental junk bonds.

Verdict: 'Poor judgment' In November 1990, the Senate Ethics Committee convened to decide what punishment, if any, should be doled out to the Keating Five. Robert Bennett, who would later represent President Bill Clinton in the Paula Jones case, was the special counsel for the committee. In his opening remarks, he slammed DeConcini but went lightly on McCain, the lone Republican ensnared with four Democrats. "In the case of Senator McCain, there is very substantial evidence that he thought he had an understanding with Senator DeConcini's office that certain matters would not be gone into at the meeting with (bank board) Chairman (Ed) Gray," Bennett said. "Moreover, there is substantial evidence that, as a result of Senator McCain's refusal to do certain things, he had a fallout with Mr. Keating." Among the Keating Five, McCain took the most direct contributions from Keating. But the investigation found that he was the least culpable, along with Glenn. McCain attended the meetings but did nothing afterward to stop Lincoln's death spiral. Lincoln was the most expensive failure in the national S&L scandal. Taxpayers lost more than $2 billion on the bailout. McCain also looked good in contrast to DeConcini, who continued to defend Keating until fall 1989, when federal regulators filed a $1.1 billion civil racketeering and fraud suit against Keating, accusing him of siphoning Lincoln's deposits to his family and into political campaigns. In January 1993, a federal jury convicted him of 73 counts of wire and bankruptcy fraud in the collapse of American Continental and Lincoln. Keating was sentenced to 12 years and seven months in prison but served just 50 months before the conviction was overturned on a technicality. In 1999, at age 75, he pleaded guilty to four counts of fraud. He was sentenced to time served. In the end, McCain received only a mild rebuke from the Ethics Committee for exercising "poor judgment" for intervening with the federal regulators on behalf of Keating. Still, he felt tarred by the affair. "The appearance of it was wrong," McCain said. "It's a wrong appearance when a group of senators appear in a meeting with a group of regulators because it conveys the impression of undue and improper influence. And it was the wrong thing to do." McCain noted that Bennett, the independent counsel, recommended that McCain and Glenn be dropped from the investigation. "For the first time in history, the Ethics Committee overruled the recommendation of the independent counsel," McCain said. For his part, DeConcini is critical of McCain's role in the affair. The two senators never were particularly cozy, and the stress of the public scrutiny worsened their relations.In his memoir Senator Dennis DeConcini: From the Center of the Aisle, he praises the decision to keep McCain on the hook. "It became clear to me, and it was later confirmed by Ethics Committee members, that Bennett was attempting to dismiss the charges against McCain, and in order to appear nonpartisan, he included Glenn in this effort," DeConcini wrote with co-author Jack August. "Thanks to the three Democrats on the committee and perhaps with the help of Senator (Jesse) Helms (R-N.C.), however, the charges remained in place for all the senators under investigation. So all of us had to attend the 23-day public hearing, which was indeed a trial, before the six-member Senate Ethics Committee."In the book, DeConcini reiterates his allegation that McCain leaked to the media "sensitive information" about certain closed proceedings in order to hurt DeConcini, Riegle and Cranston. It's a fairly serious charge. The Boston Globe revisited the Keating Five leaks in 2000. The story paraphrased a congressional investigator, Clark B. Hall, as personally concluding that "McCain was one of the principal leakers." The newspaper also reported that McCain, under oath, had denied involvement with the leaks.McCain owns up to his mistake this way: "I was judged eventually, after three years, of using, quote, poor judgment, and I agree with that assessment."

Original post: http://www.azcentral.com/news/specials/mccain/articles/0301mccainbio-chapter7.html

McCain, John

For McCain, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Its Own Risk

WASHINGTON — Early in Senator John McCain’s first run for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his small circle of advisers.

A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client’s corporate jet. 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.
When news organizations reported that Mr. McCain had written letters to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist’s client, the former campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that attention would fall on her involvement.

Mr. McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both say they never had a romantic relationship. But to his advisers, even the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity.

It had been just a decade since an official favor for a friend with regulatory problems had nearly ended Mr. McCain’s political career by ensnaring him in the Keating Five scandal. In the years that followed, he reinvented himself as the scourge of special interests, a crusader for stricter ethics and campaign finance rules, a man of honor chastened by a brush with shame.
But the concerns about Mr. McCain’s relationship with Ms. Iseman underscored an enduring paradox of his post-Keating career. Even as he has vowed to hold himself to the highest ethical standards, his confidence in his own integrity has sometimes seemed to blind him to potentially embarrassing conflicts of interest.

Mr. McCain promised, for example, never to fly directly from Washington to Phoenix, his hometown, to avoid the impression of self-interest because he sponsored a law that opened the route nearly a decade ago. But like other lawmakers, he often flew on the corporate jets of business executives seeking his support, including the media moguls Rupert Murdoch, Michael R. Bloomberg and Lowell W. Paxson, Ms. Iseman’s client. (Last year he voted to end the practice.)

Mr. McCain helped found a nonprofit group to promote his personal battle for tighter campaign finance rules. But he later resigned as its chairman after news reports disclosed that the group was tapping the same kinds of unlimited corporate contributions he opposed, including those from companies seeking his favor. He has criticized the cozy ties between lawmakers and lobbyists, but is relying on corporate lobbyists to donate their time running his presidential race and recently hired a lobbyist to run his Senate office.

“He is essentially an honorable person,” said William P. Cheshire, a friend of Mr. McCain who as editorial page editor of The Arizona Republic defended him during the Keating Five scandal. “But he can be imprudent.”

Mr. Cheshire added, “That imprudence or recklessness may be part of why he was not more astute about the risks he was running with this shady operator,” Charles Keating, whose ties to Mr. McCain and four other lawmakers tainted their reputations in the savings and loan debacle.
During his current campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, Mr. McCain has played down his attacks on the corrupting power of money in politics, aware that the stricter regulations he championed are unpopular in his party. When the Senate overhauled lobbying and ethics rules last year, Mr. McCain stayed in the background.

With his nomination this year all but certain, though, he is reminding voters again of his record of reform. His campaign has already begun comparing his credentials with those of Senator Barack Obama, a Democratic contender who has made lobbying and ethics rules a centerpiece of his own pitch to voters.

“I would very much like to think that I have never been a man whose favor can be bought,” Mr. McCain wrote about his Keating experience in his 2002 memoir, “Worth the Fighting For.” “From my earliest youth, I would have considered such a reputation to be the most shameful ignominy imaginable. Yet that is exactly how millions of Americans viewed me for a time, a time that I will forever consider one of the worst experiences of my life.”

A drive to expunge the stain on his reputation in time turned into a zeal to cleanse Washington as well. The episode taught him that “questions of honor are raised as much by appearances as by reality in politics,” he wrote, “and because they incite public distrust they need to be addressed no less directly than we would address evidence of expressly illegal corruption.”

A Formative Scandal

Mr. McCain started his career like many other aspiring politicians, eagerly courting the wealthy and powerful. A Vietnam war hero and Senate liaison for the Navy, he arrived in Arizona in 1980 after his second marriage, to Cindy Hensley, the heiress to a beer fortune there. He quickly started looking for a Congressional district where he could run.

Mr. Keating, a Phoenix financier and real estate developer, became an early sponsor and, soon, a friend. He was a man of great confidence and daring, Mr. McCain recalled in his memoir. “People like that appeal to me,” he continued. “I have sometimes forgotten that wisdom and a strong sense of public responsibility are much more admirable qualities.”

During Mr. McCain’s four years in the House, Mr. Keating, his family and his business associates contributed heavily to his political campaigns. The banker gave Mr. McCain free rides on his private jet, a violation of Congressional ethics rules (he later said it was an oversight and paid for the trips). They vacationed together in the Bahamas. And in 1986, the year Mr. McCain was elected to the Senate, his wife joined Mr. Keating in investing in an Arizona shopping mall.
Mr. Keating had taken over the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association and used its federally insured deposits to gamble on risky real estate and other investments. He pressed Mr. McCain and other lawmakers to help hold back federal banking regulators.

For years, Mr. McCain complied. At Mr. Keating’s request, he wrote several letters to regulators, introduced legislation and helped secure the nomination of a Keating associate to a banking regulatory board.

By early 1987, though, the thrift was careering toward disaster. Mr. McCain agreed to join several senators, eventually known as the Keating Five, for two private meetings with regulators to urge them to ease up. “Why didn’t I fully grasp the unusual appearance of such a meeting?” Mr. McCain later lamented in his memoir.

When Lincoln went bankrupt in 1989 — one of the biggest collapses of the savings and loan crisis, costing taxpayers $3.4 billion — the Keating Five became infamous. The scandal sent Mr. Keating to prison and ended the careers of three senators, who were rebuked by the Senate Ethics Committee in 1991 for intervening. Mr. McCain, who had been a less aggressive advocate for Mr. Keating than the others, was reprimanded only for “poor judgment” and was re-elected the next year.

Some people involved think Mr. McCain got off too lightly. William Black, one of the banking regulators the senator met with, argued that Mrs. McCain’s investment with Mr. Keating created an obvious conflict of interest for her husband. (Mr. McCain had said a prenuptial agreement divided the couple’s assets.) He should not be able to “put this behind him,” Mr. Black said. “It sullied his integrity.”

Mr. McCain has since described the episode as a unique humiliation. “If I do not repress the memory, its recollection still provokes a vague but real feeling that I had lost something very important,” he wrote in his memoir. “I still wince thinking about it.”

A New Chosen Cause

After the Republican takeover of the Senate in 1994, Mr. McCain decided to try to put some of the lessons he had learned into law. He started by attacking earmarks, the pet projects that individual lawmakers could insert anonymously into the fine print of giant spending bills, a recipe for corruption. But he quickly moved on to other targets, most notably political fund-raising.

Mr. McCain earned the lasting animosity of many conservatives, who argue that his push for fund-raising restrictions trampled free speech, and of many of his Senate colleagues, who bristled that he was preaching to them so soon after his own repentance. In debates, his party’s leaders challenged him to name a single senator he considered corrupt (he refused).

“We used to joke that each of us was the only one eating alone in our caucus,” said Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, who became Mr. McCain’s partner on campaign finance efforts.

Mr. McCain appeared motivated less by the usual ideas about good governance than by a more visceral disapproval of the gifts, meals and money that influence seekers shower on lawmakers, Mr. Feingold said. “It had to do with his sense of honor,” he said. “He saw this stuff as cheating.”
Mr. McCain made loosening the grip of special interests the central cause of his 2000 presidential campaign, inviting scrutiny of his own ethics. His Republican rival, George W. Bush, accused him of “double talk” for soliciting campaign contributions from companies with interests that came before the powerful Senate commerce committee, of which Mr. McCain was chairman. Mr. Bush’s allies called Mr. McCain “sanctimonious.”

At one point, his campaign invited scores of lobbyists to a fund-raiser at the Willard Hotel in Washington. While Bush supporters stood mocking outside, the McCain team tried to defend his integrity by handing the lobbyists buttons reading “McCain voted against my bill.” Mr. McCain himself skipped the event, an act he later called “cowardly.”

By 2002, he had succeeded in passing the McCain-Feingold Act, which transformed American politics by banning “soft money,” the unlimited donations from corporations, unions and the rich that were funneled through the two political parties to get around previous laws.

One of his efforts, though, seemed self-contradictory. In 2001, he helped found the nonprofit Reform Institute to promote his cause and, in the process, his career. It collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in unlimited donations from companies that lobbied the Senate commerce committee. Mr. McCain initially said he saw no problems with the financing, but he severed his ties to the institute in 2005, complaining of “bad publicity” after news reports of the arrangement.

Like other presidential candidates, he has relied on lobbyists to run his campaigns. Since a cash crunch last summer, several of them — including his campaign manager, Rick Davis, who represented companies before Mr. McCain’s Senate panel — have been working without pay, a gift that could be worth tens of thousands of dollars.

In recent weeks, Mr. McCain has hired another lobbyist, Mark Buse, to run his Senate office. In his case, it was a round trip through the revolving door: Mr. Buse had directed Mr. McCain’s committee staff for seven years before leaving in 2001 to lobby for telecommunications companies.

Mr. McCain’s friends dismiss questions about his ties to lobbyists, arguing that he has too much integrity to let such personal connections influence him.

“Unless he gives you special treatment or takes legislative action against his own views, I don’t think his personal and social relationships matter,” said Charles Black, a friend and campaign adviser who has previously lobbied the senator for aviation, broadcasting and tobacco concerns.

Concerns in a Campaign

Mr. McCain’s confidence in his ability to distinguish personal friendships from compromising connections was at the center of questions advisers raised about Ms. Iseman.
The lobbyist, a partner at the firm Alcalde & Fay, represented telecommunications companies for whom Mr. McCain’s commerce committee was pivotal. Her clients contributed tens of thousands of dollars to his campaigns.

Mr. Black said Mr. McCain and Ms. Iseman were friends and nothing more. But in 1999 she began showing up so frequently in his offices and at campaign events that staff members took notice. One recalled asking, “Why is she always around?”

That February, Mr. McCain and Ms. Iseman attended a small fund-raising dinner with several clients at the Miami-area home of a cruise-line executive and then flew back to Washington along with a campaign aide on the corporate jet of one of her clients, Paxson Communications. By then, according to two former McCain associates, some of the senator’s advisers had grown so concerned that the relationship had become romantic that they took steps to intervene.
A former campaign adviser described being instructed to keep Ms. Iseman away from the senator at public events, while a Senate aide recalled plans to limit Ms. Iseman’s access to his offices.

In interviews, the two former associates said they joined in a series of confrontations with Mr. McCain, warning him that he was risking his campaign and career. Both said Mr. McCain acknowledged behaving inappropriately and pledged to keep his distance from Ms. Iseman. The two associates, who said they had become disillusioned with the senator, spoke independently of each other and provided details that were corroborated by others.

Separately, a top McCain aide met with Ms. Iseman at Union Station in Washington to ask her to stay away from the senator. John Weaver, a former top strategist and now an informal campaign adviser, said in an e-mail message that he arranged the meeting after “a discussion among the campaign leadership” about her.

“Our political messaging during that time period centered around taking on the special interests and placing the nation’s interests before either personal or special interest,” Mr. Weaver continued. “Ms. Iseman’s involvement in the campaign, it was felt by us, could undermine that effort.”

Mr. Weaver added that the brief conversation was only about “her conduct and what she allegedly had told people, which made its way back to us.” He declined to elaborate.
It is not clear what effect the warnings had; the associates said their concerns receded in the heat of the campaign.

Ms. Iseman acknowledged meeting with Mr. Weaver, but disputed his account.
“I never discussed with him alleged things I had ‘told people,’ that had made their way ‘back to’ him,” she wrote in an e-mail message. She said she never received special treatment from Mr. McCain’s office.

Mr. McCain said that the relationship was not romantic and that he never showed favoritism to Ms. Iseman or her clients. “I have never betrayed the public trust by doing anything like that,” he said. He made the statements in a call to Bill Keller, the executive editor of The New York Times, to complain about the paper’s inquiries.

The senator declined repeated interview requests, beginning in December. He also would not comment about the assertions that he had been confronted about Ms. Iseman, Mr. Black said Wednesday.

Mr. Davis and Mark Salter, Mr. McCain’s top strategists in both of his presidential campaigns, disputed accounts from the former associates and aides and said they did not discuss Ms. Iseman with the senator or colleagues.

“I never had any good reason to think that the relationship was anything other than professional, a friendly professional relationship,” Mr. Salter said in an interview.
He and Mr. Davis also said Mr. McCain had frequently denied requests from Ms. Iseman and the companies she represented. In 2006, Mr. McCain sought to break up cable subscription packages, which some of her clients opposed. And his proposals for satellite distribution of local television programs fell short of her clients’ hopes.

The McCain aides said the senator sided with Ms. Iseman’s clients only when their positions hewed to his principles.

A champion of deregulation, Mr. McCain wrote letters in 1998 and 1999 to the Federal Communications Commission urging it to uphold marketing agreements allowing a television company to control two stations in the same city, a crucial issue for Glencairn Ltd., one of Ms. Iseman’s clients. He introduced a bill to create tax incentives for minority ownership of stations; Ms. Iseman represented several businesses seeking such a program. And he twice tried to advance legislation that would permit a company to control television stations in overlapping markets, an important issue for Paxson.

In late 1999, Ms. Iseman asked Mr. McCain’s staff to send a letter to the commission to help Paxson, now Ion Media Networks, on another matter. Mr. Paxson was impatient for F.C.C. approval of a television deal, and Ms. Iseman acknowledged in an e-mail message to The Times that she had sent to Mr. McCain’s staff information for drafting a letter urging a swift decision.
Mr. McCain complied. He sent two letters to the commission, drawing a rare rebuke for interference from its chairman. In an embarrassing turn for the campaign, news reports invoked the Keating scandal, once again raising questions about intervening for a patron.
Mr. McCain’s aides released all of his letters to the F.C.C. to dispel accusations of favoritism, and aides said the campaign had properly accounted for four trips on the Paxson plane. But the campaign did not report the flight with Ms. Iseman. Mr. McCain’s advisers say he was not required to disclose the flight, but ethics lawyers dispute that.

Recalling the Paxson episode in his memoir, Mr. McCain said he was merely trying to push along a slow-moving bureaucracy, but added that he was not surprised by the criticism given his history.

“Any hint that I might have acted to reward a supporter,” he wrote, “would be taken as an egregious act of hypocrisy.”

Original post: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/21/us/politics/21mccain.html?_r=1&hp=&pagewanted=all&oref=slogin

McCain, John

The Other Side of the McCain Lobbyist Scandal
By Jerold M. Starr
March 4, 2008

I don't know whether Senator John McCain had sex with lobbyist Vickie Iseman, but I do know, first hand, that he broke the rules while doing the bidding of media mogul Lowell "Bud" Paxson, a major contributor to McCain's 2000 presidential campaign. McCain's staff lied it about it then and they are inventing new lies even now.

I was the leader of the campaign opposing the transfer of Pittsburgh's second public television station (Channel 16), along with $17.5 million, to a conservative televangelist ministry so that Paxson could expand his network into the Pittsburgh market. In fact, I wrote a well-reviewed book in 2000 about the entire case, Air Wars: The Fight to Reclaim Public Broadcasting.
Since this man could well be the next President of the United States, his character should be of concern to all people of this country.

In 1994, local media revealed that Pittsburgh's public station WQED had piled up millions of dollars of debt due to obvious malfeasance and, according to our informants, possible embezzlement. By 1996, new CEO George Miles's solution to this problem was to commercialize and sell off Channel 16. Along with activist Linda Wambaugh, I organized the Save Pittsburgh Public Television campaign to advocate a solution that would have both addressed the debt and saved the station.

In July 1996, the FCC denied WQED's petition on the grounds that a noncommercial license had never been removed from a community without being replaced by another. Around April 1997, WQED proposed "Plan B"--a swap with Cornerstone Broadcasting, bankrolled by Paxson Communications, with Cornerstone taking over our public station and Paxson taking over Cornerstone's commercial frequency.

As reported originally in the New York Times, McCain wrote two letters late in 1999 to each of the five FCC commissioners demanding that they advise him by December 15 whether they had voted for or against Paxson's petition. McCain continues to insist that his letter's disclaimer that he was not calling for a particular outcome exonerates him of charges of interference. However, Steve Labaton of the New York Times plowed through 2,000 pages of McCain office correspondence and found that almost all of his letters included this "boilerplate" disclaimer. Moreover, in "the vast majority of these regulatory cases where McCain himself sent the letter, the interested parties had contributed to his presidential campaigns."

As our attorney, Georgetown's Angela Campbell, advised ABC News: "The timing of the letters was clearly in Paxson's interest." Paxson's contract with all parties was due to expire December 31 and there were clear indications that Cornerstone would withdraw from the deal. The Commission still was undecided and had the option to refer the case for public hearing so that community sentiment could be measured. Short of outright denial, this was our wish. Miles acknowledged to the press at the time that had this happened, the deal would have been "dead in the water."

Back then, after extensive interviews with DC lobbyists and FCC staff, the Boston Globe, New York Times, Washington Post and others concluded that McCain's letters were "highly unusual," "crossed a line" and "were widely interpreted to favor the complicated transfers."
At the time, McCain's staff said to the press that his intervention was appropriate because "there was no formal opposition." Our opposition had been formal for years. Our board of directors included such community leaders as the president of the Pittsburgh City Council, a monsignor in the Pittsburgh Catholic Archdiocese and a state legislator (who sat on WQED's board but could not abide the sellout). Our supporters included scores of unions with up to 150,000 members, more than forty public interest groups, hundreds of educators, clergy and other professionals and, thanks to Working Assets, up to 40,000 letters urging the FCC to deny the transfer of Pittsburgh's public station to Cornerstone.

The major reason the case took so long is the well-documented presentation by our campaign that Cornerstone was not qualified to run our educational broadcasting station. In a highly unusual move in March 1998, Barbara Kreisman, a high-ranking FCC official, wrote to Cornerstone to advise that it amend their application to demonstrate eligibility. Kreisman called Cornerstone's five-member board "self perpetuating" and "not...broadly representative of the Pittsburgh community."

Kreisman noted further that Cornerstone's "goal still appears to be primarily religious" and "it's not clear to what extent" Cornerstone would pursue its claimed educational purposes. Still another problem was that, given all the commercials on Cornerstone (some programs being little more than infomercials), the FCC needed to know what steps the station "will take to comply with the Commission's rules regarding advertising and fund-raising on noncommercial educational stations."

(One show peddled screensavers with messages such as "Somewhere a homo teacher is molesting a child." Since Cornerstone leaders were active followers of Pat Robertson, gays were not the only groups who got hammered on the air. So did the United Nations, teachers unions, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Buddhists and Unitarians, among others.)
Cornerstone's response to the FCC's concerns was to add two associates to their five-member board and to submit a reformatted schedule with the same programs, even those in which commercials were integral to their content. Cornerstone then accused the FCC of religious bias and refused to make any more changes.

In January 1999, the FCC invited all attorneys to a meeting. When our attorney asked the FCC's Joyce Bernstein whether the meeting was for "negotiation," Bernstein replied, "No, there is a standard for reserved licenses." The FCC then called to advise that Cornerstone refused to attend and the meeting canceled.

Now McCain's camp has issued a 1,500-page document of "facts" the recent New York Times exposé did not include, such as that "No representative of Paxson or Alcade and Fay asked McCain to send a letter to the FCC regarding this proceeding." However, within days, Paxson himself advised the Washington Post that both Iseman and he had met with McCain about the matter.

At the time, according to well-documented reports, Paxson's family, company and law firm were contributing tens of thousands of dollars to McCain's campaign while McCain flew around on Paxson's private jet to rallies and to fundraisers on Paxson's yacht.
Eight months later, the FCC did, indeed, determine that McCain had broken the rules. First, the comment period was over so the case was bound by ex parte rules--no outside attempts to influence the commissioners. Commissioner Tristani recently explained, "It's like going to a court and saying, 'Tell us before it is final how you voted.'" At the time, Chair Kennard wrote to McCain that such inquiries could have "substantive impacts on the Commission's deliberation" and "the due process rights of the parties."

As chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, McCain had control of the FCC's budget. To a colleague of mine at a meeting of the National Association of Broadcasters, Paxson boasted he had the commission "in his pocket." One commissioner, Democrat Susan Ness, had her application for another term at the FCC on McCain's desk. Ness broke ranks with her Democratic colleagues to approve the transfer, and then switched back to warn Cornerstone the FCC would be watching to see that they conformed to the rules governing non-commercial educational stations.

Apparently, wishing to recast McCain as peacemaker rather than influence peddler, his campaign has resorted to more lies, claiming his staff "met with public broadcasting activists from the Pittsburgh area about the transfer" and we "expressed frustration that the proceeding had been before the FCC for over two years." Allegedly, we asked McCain's staff "to contact the FCC regarding this proceeding." We had no idea of McCain's sudden and urgent interest in our local matter until the FCC advised that the commissioners already had voted 3-2 to approve the transfer, at which time McCain's letters were dropped on us.

In the end, Cornerstone miraculously withdrew, stating it could not risk compromising its religious ministry. Subsequently, Republicans in Congress moved a bill stripping educational programming as a requirement for holding an educational license. It actually passed the House, but stalled in the Senate.

As I said, McCain's private life is not my concern. But I care deeply, as a veteran of Pittsburgh's struggle to save public television, that he sought to dictate the solution to our community dispute on behalf of some Florida-based media mogul.

Original post: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20080317/starr

Monday, July 21, 2008

Coleman, Ron

Trouble Ahead for Sen. Coleman

Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman's (R) reelection prospects have brightened in recent weeks, as the press has been busy digging around in the tax records and controversial writings of his Democratic challenger, humorist Al Franken.
But the tide may be about to turn.

National Journal is out today with a terrific story on the relationship between Coleman and Jeff Larson, a little-known but powerful operative in Republican fundraising circles. The story is long and worth reading in full, but here are the highlights:

* Coleman has a longstanding relationship with Larson and his St. Paul-based fundraising company, FLS Connect. The firm has raised lots of money for Coleman and has been paid quite a bit in return by his reelection campaign and his political action committee.

* Coleman rents a room in the basement of a Capitol Hill townhouse owned by Larson. He pays $600 per month for the place, which seems -- to anyone who's tried to find similarly priced digs in the area -- to be a very good deal. Coleman and Larson both say that the senator only has a small bedroom with no kitchen, and he's rarely there anyway.

* Coleman tells NJ that after the magazine's inquiries, he "discovered" he hadn't paid rent for last November or January. Coleman regularly pays his rent late, and at least one rent check wasn't cashed for several months until after NJ started asking questions. For one month last year, Coleman "paid" his rent by selling Larson some old furniture.

* Larson's wife, Dorene, has been on Coleman's Senate payroll for the past two years (under her maiden name) as a casework supervisor in his St. Paul office. Coleman says she does a great job, but she is now going to leave the payroll next month to ... wait for it ... spend more time with her family.

What does this all add up to? Coleman and Larson both strongly denied to NJ that there is anything inappropriate about their business ties or their tenant-landlord relationship. But you can bet that the Minnesota press and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee will be all over this. And you can bet the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington will file a formal complaint against Coleman with the Senate Ethics Committee, automatically triggering a preliminary investigation by the panel.
Coleman appears to have a good friend in Larson and a great place to live in D.C. Now he probably needs a good lawyer.

By Ben Pershing June 27, 2008; 2:44 PM ET 2008 Campaign , Ethics and Rules Previous: On Energy, Democrats' Tank Is Only Half Full Next: Player of the Week: Paul Hodes


Please email us to report offensive comments.
This is news...wait for it...why?
Desperate to find something?
Posted by: Smedley Butler June 27, 2008 4:27 PM
I think I know where Coleman lives. My significant other lives in a similar apartment about two blocks away. She pays $550 a month for a place that's slightly bigger, and she actually gets to share the townhouse kitchen.
In other words: WTF, mate?
Posted by: I know this sounds silly but June 27, 2008 4:39 PM
Concur that the rent actually seems like a plausible rate, especially given that the landlord legitimately knows that the tenant will be there minimally. That said, Coleman should have known better. This is the type of thing that looks like it creates a conflict of interest.
Posted by: June 27, 2008 4:59 PM
As a Minnesota Democrat, I have to ask "Where is the beef?" in this story? I have read the entire article in question and -- while it all is passingly very interesting -- so what?
Posted by: Gary in MN June 27, 2008 5:05 PM
But the public record lists two kitchens for that address. Could it be a mistake?
Incidentially, is that CapHill townhouse Larson's primary residence? In other words is he entitled to a homestead exemption?
my my what was Coleman thinking?
Posted by: JohnAdams1 June 27, 2008 5:19 PM
I am from Minnesota. Honestly, I had hoped there was something here. Norm surely has personal dirt in his past, but this is not it. Pathetic. Compared to Stuart Smally's rape jokes? Franken's tax woes and on-the-record statments that "taxes are complex" -a killer for someone who wants to be a Senator passing tax policy, you think THIS is news? Realy????
Posted by: UndecidedModerate June 27, 2008 6:36 PM
I thought Senators make like $200K a year, I pay $1,300 in Shaw for a Galley Kitchen (use to be a Rooming House), but somehow... I survive on a GS9 salary. Ohh, that's right, I don't have a limo or a tux.
Posted by: angriestdogintheworld June 27, 2008 7:08 PM
Sounds to me like he hasn't paid that $600 half the time (so is that an illegal gift or contribution of some species?), andif the hiring of Larson's wife was legit and she was really qualified, she wouldn't have headed for the hills. Coleman would have done the humanly decent thing and proved her professional bona fides to all doubters - strongly standing by her.
This unethical quid pro quo stuff is a pattern for Coleman, remember his dental work??? I'll take any and all bets that there is illegality involved here. Hope we see it take him down - Coleman is an absolute disgrace to the Senate. The only time I enjoyed haering him speak was when he was verbally and skillfully castrated by George Galloway. That was speaking truth to (undeserved) power.
Posted by: DD June 27, 2008 11:11 PM
OK -- I see a lot of comments that there is nothing to this story but explain why was Larson's wife using her maiden name. Does she normally do this? Sounds kind of hinky to to me. Also --- I have never had a landlord who didn't notice that I hadn't paid rent. Supposedly Coleman didn't "discover" he hadn't paid rent in November and January until this investigative story. Just curious anybody else out there able to skip their rent payments and the landlord doesn't notice for 6-8 months?
Posted by: pam June 28, 2008 12:06 AM
Oh, don't go too hard on old Norm. Now that things are turning to the left finally all he has to do is grow his hair long again (ala Hofstra) and light up a doobie and VIOLA, he's a liberal again.It'll be just like old times.
Posted by: Tom June 28, 2008 8:05 AM
Being Minnesota born and raised, I do not understand how this guy (Norm Coleman) can waltz into our state and run for the senate. At least Al Franken was born here. Al is a good comedian and Norm is a joke. I don't believe that Norm's tax returns can be all that perfect either. My feeling is that Al Franken is an extremely bright and enthusiastic individual who would do a good job for Minnesota no matter what dirt the pugs dig up.
Posted by: ksquires June 28, 2008 1:15 PM
All in how the media flips it and the media is on the side of the Republicans.
Coleman's current problems are politics as usual, not exceptional, and not that exciting. My wife kept her maiden name. Her father was a regionally known painter and two of his three girls kept the name. One year I worked at Johns Hopkins I paid a lot less than $600 for a townhouse bedroom, was there every night and had the run of the place. Were the motivations more tainted in Coleman's case? Maybe. But since the circumstances aren't that interesting, where's the traction? Just as easy to say "Maybe not." Isn't like a Democratic congressman getting caught with wads of $100 bills in Tupperware containers in his freezer. What became of that?
And so what that Coleman wasn't born in Minnesota? Franken left Minnesota about 1970 when he was a teenager after graduating from the state's finest yuppie prep school and except for visits to his mother only moved back to try to be a politician. Which seriously makes me wonder whether he is _really_ in better touch with Minnesotans than Coleman and seriously makes me question whether Franken is the best choice for a strategic campaign. I think he should have stuck with writing books.
Posted by: smchris June 29, 2008 12:21 AM
Kind of strange. Dorene Kainz is on Coleman's staff listed under her maiden name, yet in this link http://www.guatadopt.com/archives/000698.htmlShe responds to a constituent as Dorene Larson. You would think she would only use one last name so the constituents know who to ask for, unless she is trying to hide something.
Posted by: Dave Simpson June 29, 2008 12:25 PM
Ho! Hum! Yawn! So must be a slow newsdayat WAPO since most of the people in theUSA already know what a phony sleazy loserNorm Coleman is now then. So what's thepoint here? And why is WAPO still givingMessiah Barack Hussein Obama a free ride?
Posted by: Sherry Kay2004 June 30, 2008 9:57 AM
To consider Franken in the same solar system with Coleman is a bad, bad joke. He is nothing but a smear merchant and a liar. His writings, tax problems and any number of wild accusations on talk shows shows he his unstable and certainly ooperates far below any standard to be considered for a U.S. Senator. On Coleman's worst day, Franken still loses.
Posted by: twomiler June 30, 2008 1:20 PM
So what's the problem? Is it illegal for a landlord to rent a small area for $600/month? Is it illegal to rent to/from a friend? Is it illegal to rent to a person who does business with you? Is there anything involving taxpayer money here? WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?
If you're going to say he should hire a lawyer, at least list what he's done that may be illegal.
Posted by: kevin June 30, 2008 2:08 PM
Posted by: rugman June 30, 2008 6:19 PM
While you're at it, why not look into the use of Coleman's name and status as a U.S. Senator to sell his wife's Blo-and-Go contraptions? His name was all over Laurie Coleman's Blo-and-Go website until recently, when it was scrubbed. perhaps there was a potential FEC or Senate ethics violation in that sleazy little bit of promotion too? Read about that one here:
Posted by: Minnesota Raindog June 30, 2008 7:35 PM
I used to be married to a relative of Jeffs and although I haven't seen him in years I do know Dorene used her maiden name. Other than that nothing to add.
Posted by: June 30, 2008 11:24 PM
I read this story...Yawn....so what?At least Senator Coleman has not tackled someone at a political event like Franken has. Franken is a nut case...too bad the Democrat Party in Minnesota was not bright enough to find a good candidate...so now all they can do is attack and smear a qualified Senator in hopes of seating that idiot stooge Franken. People of Minnesota wake up!!! If you elect Franken...the rest of the country will laugh at you...like we all laugh at Ohio for Dennis Kucinich LOL LOL LOL
Posted by: Sandra Binder July 1, 2008 7:50 AM
I'm not really sure where the problem is here other than a room in a basement being rented out for that much money!
Posted by: July 1, 2008 10:28 AM
It certainly seems that a person should be able to rent an apartment to whomever he wishes for whatever rate...until, of course, the renter is someone who is subject to laws regarding gifts to representatives. And it similarly seems that Senator Coleman should be able to employ whoever he wishes in his office, but the choice of someone who is married to a prime operator of a fundraising organization does at least raise the question of what is payback for what. If Doreen Larson is a competent staffer, then Coleman should defend her and his choice in hiring her on that basis. You don't just give up competent staff without a fight, since competent staff are notoriously hard to find. Far more questionable is whether the rental agreement (the furniture thing in particular) is a rental, or a gift. If Coleman weren't a Senator, then there would be nothing illegal, but there is much which it is illegal for a Senator or Congressman to receive which would be OK for a private citizen. The congress has passed laws and regulations on gifts to its members. The members should at least be bright enough to pay attention to the laws they themselves passed.
Norm should have been aware of this particular pothole. He isn't the first Republican Senator from Minnesota to have problems with how he acquired his living space. One is reminded of the flap a few years ago with Minnesota Senator Dave Durenberger and the lease of an apartment from himself.
If Larson's company wasn't being paid $1.6 million per year by Coleman's organization, along with the $100,000 a year salary for Mrs. Larson, it also might not raise quite so many eyebrows, but if the discounted rent is a gift (and there is at least smoke here) then it is a violation.
Posted by: Gardog July 1, 2008 5:46 PM
"He's hardly there?" Where is he? I live in St Paul and he and his wife are not here.
That's a bad answer for Mr. Coleman. Given his shady reputation, I think that unless he's sleeping in the Senate coatroom after putting in long hours reviewing policy proposals he shoold say "Yes I'm there in bed every night by 10pm."

Original post: http://blog.washingtonpost.com/capitol-briefing/2008/06/trouble_ahead_for_sen_coleman.html