Strategy ’08

Obama vs. the other guy, 2008

McCain bundler raises questionable contributions from mechanic, unregistered voters

This list of McCain’s questionable donors continues to rise. On Monday, Dansac highlighted a TPM piece that revealed that Alice Rocchio, a Hess office manager, and Pasquale Rocchio, an Amtrak train foreman, together donated $57,000 to the RNC.

Today, the Washington Post has a pretty explosive story about some more unlikely contributions that were sent McCain’s way.

The bundle of $2,300 and $4,600 checks that poured into Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign on March 12 came from an unlikely group of California donors: a mechanic from D&D Auto Repair in Whittier, the manager of Rite Aid Pharmacy No. 5727, the 30-something owners of the Twilight Hookah Lounge in Fullerton.

So how did these donors with everyday jobs manage to be able to fork over contributions of $2300-$4600, in a time when the economy is in a recession, and people are trying to find ways to save as much as they can? The situation gets more interesting when you look at who raised the money for Senator McCain:

Harry Sargeant III, a former naval officer and the owner of an oil-trading company that recently inked defense contracts potentially worth more than $1 billion, is the archetype of a modern presidential money man. The law forbids high-level supporters from writing huge checks, but with help from friends in the Middle East and the former chief of the CIA’s bin Laden unit — who now serves as a consultant to his company — Sargeant has raised more than $100,000 for three presidential candidates from a collection of ordinary people, several of whom professed little interest in the outcome of the election.

Sargent is what’s called a bundler, someone who contributes not only their own money, but also convinces other donors to give the maximum amount to a certain candidate. Bundlers are nothing new in politics, but where Sargent is getting his contributions from definitely raises some eyebrows.

Some of the most prolific givers in Sargeant’s network live in modest homes in Southern California’s Inland Empire. Most had never given a political contribution before being contacted by Sargeant or his associates. Most said they have never voiced much interest in politics. And in several instances, they had never registered to vote. And yet, records show, some families have ponied up as much as $18,400 for various candidates between December and March.

So McCain is collecting $2300 checks from people who not only have modest incomes, but who also don’t really care about politics? It would be one thing if John McCain was collecting donations from average people who believed so much in his candidacy (I know that requires some serious suspension of disbelief) that they depleted their savings to fund his presidential campaign. But some of these new donors don’t even seem to care enough about the election to bother to register to vote. When asked about how he convinces people to contribute to candidates Sargeant is vague and evasive.

“I have a lot of Arab business partners. I do a lot of business in the Middle East. I’ve got a lot of friends,” Sargeant said in a telephone interview yesterday. “I ask my friends to support candidates that I think are worthy of supporting. They usually come through for me.”

What does doing business in the middle east with Arab business partners (who unless they are US citizens, would be prohibited from donating to a political campaign) have to do with collecting checks from ordinary citizens?

Sargeant has some serious explaining to do about how he raises his money. Does he collect donations through coercion, or in exchange for favors? Does he funnel his own money to these donors, and then have them write the checks? All three of those actions would be illegal. Sargeant’s actions need to be fully investigated, and John McCain needs to return those donations if there is any evidence of impropriety.

UPDATE: Here’s some more information on the couple I mentioned in the beginning of the article who gave over $60,000 to McCain despite never having donated politically before and living on modest means in Flushing queens:

WASHINGTON — Alice Rocchio is an office manager at the New York headquarters of the Hess Corp., drives a 1993 Chevy Cavalier and lives in an apartment in Queens, N.Y., with her husband, Pasquale, an Amtrak foreman.

Despite what appears to be a middle-class lifestyle, the couple has written $61,600 in checks to John McCain’s presidential campaign and the Republican National Committee, most of it within days of McCain’s decision to endorse offshore oil drilling.

At a June fundraiser, the Rocchios joined top executives at Hess Corp. — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Hess, his wife, Susan, his mother, Norma Hess, and six other officials in giving a total of $313,500 to a joint McCain-RNC fundraising committee, Federal Election Commission records show.

UPDATE X2: Digg this to help get this out there:

Here’s the Digg for the Strategy ’08 version

http://digg.com/politics/Explosive_W…

Here’s the Digg for the DKos version:

http://digg.com/2008_us_elections/Explosive_WaPo_Raises_Serious_McCain_Fundraising_Questions

Update X3: This is potentially huge. Per TPM, the bundler in question, Harry Sargeant, is being sued by the brother in law of the King of Jordan for using his connections with Jordan to get the contract, then subsequently defrauded the Jordanian out of profits.

Sargeant is the owner of an oil-trading company that has a lucrative Pentagon contract to supply fuel to the U.S. military in Iraq by way of Jordan — and he’s also reportedly getting sued by the brother-in-law of the King of Jordan over that contract.

In the suit, the brother-in-law, who is or was Sargeant’s business partner, alleged that he used his connections in Jordan to help get wire the Pentagon contract for Sargeant only to get subsequently defrauded out of profits for it. He alleges that he persuaded Jordan to allow IOTC to deliver the fuel through Jordan — a necessary requirement for getting the Pentagon contract.

So John McCain may be having funds raised illegally for him by a war profiteer who used his foreign connections to game the military contract process.

UPDATE X4: WAPO issued a correction to the article, which I have posted below:

An earlier version of this story about campaign donations that Florida businessman Harry Sargeant III raised for Sen. John McCain, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton incorrectly identified three individuals as being among the donors Sargeant solicited on behalf of McCain. Those donors — Rite Aid manager Ibrahim Marabeh, and lounge owners Nadia and Shawn Abdalla — wrote checks to Giuliani and Clinton, not McCain. Also, the first name of Faisal Abdullah, a McCain donor, was misspelled in some versions of the story.

In my opinion, the correction doesn’t fundamentally change the content of the article. The correction on those two donations doesn’t answer questions about all of the other donations McCain raised from a bundler with questionable associations and questionable tactics. It also doesn’t provide any answer about the NY couple that donated $61,600 to McCain’s campaign. Simply because the Harry Sargeant may have raised money for other candidates unethically does not make it any more acceptable if done for McCain.

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August 6, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | ,

2 Comments »

  1. This is a great story – combined with TPM’s story on the Hess donors, there could be a fun scandal brewing. Keep pushing it Smash!

    Comment by dansac | August 6, 2008 | Reply

  2. Watch the MSM won’t pick this story up. They are too busy trying to figure out if Obama is too skinny, too arrogant, too exotic, too even in the polls. This story is fascinating and hopefully someone will follow this one through.

    Comment by Marcee | August 7, 2008 | Reply


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