NYT raises more questions about McCain’s fundraising
The McCain story of McCain’s questionable fundraising continues to get more interesting. For those of you not familiar with the questions raised so far, a fundraiser named Harry Sargeant has been bringing in maxed out donations to McCain from questionable sources, including an auto mechanic and other unregistered voters. Senator McCain also received a donation of over $60,000 (between his campaign and the RNC) from a Hess office manager and an Amtrak foreman living in Flushing, Queens who still drive a 1993 sedan. If you’d like to read up on the story you can do so here.
The NYT has a piece out today that raises more questions about the contributions that McCain has raised from Harry Sargeant, particularly the contributions raised from one family, the Abdullahs.
Campaign finance records show Mr. McCain collected a little more than $50,000 in March from members of a single extended family, the Abdullahs, in California and several of their friends.
Amid a sea of contributions to the McCain campaign, the Abdullahs stand out. The checks come not from the usual exclusive coastal addresses, but from relatively hardscrabble inland towns like Downey and Colton. The donations are also startling because of their size: several donors initially wrote checks of $9,200, exceeding the $2,300 limit for an individual gift.
The Times article then goes on to point out that some of the couples that donated $9,000 McCain also maxed out to Hillary Clinton and Rudi Giuliani, pushing one family’s contributions to over $18,000. It’s an incredible amount of money for anyone to donate, let alone a family that has never been interested in politics before.
So how did Harry Sargeant, an oil businessman who is also the finance chair for the Florida Republican Party, reach out to all of these new donors out in California? Well this is where it gets more interesting. Sargeant himself never reached out to the Abdullahs. The contacts were made by Mustafa Abu Naba’a, a Jordanian who is a long time business partner of Sargeant.
Through Mr. Abu Naba’a’s connections, Mr. Sargeant has raised more than $100,000 in contributions from several dozen Arab Americans in California, including the Abdullahs, for four candidates: Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Giuliani, Mr. McCain and Charlie Crist in his successful campaign for Florida governor in 2006. Mr. Crist is a close friend and college fraternity brother of Mr. Sargeant.
The fact that Senator McCain is getting some of his funds raised not by directly by Mr. Sargeant, but funneled to him through a Jordanian citizen is worthy of red flags by itself. It is especially worthy of note since Mr. Naba’a, like Mr. Sargeant, is the recipient of a government contract to provide fuel for the troops in Iraq. TPM points out that Mr. Naba’a is also a defendant on a lawsuit filed against him and Mr. Sargeant from the brother in law of the King of Jordan. In the lawsuit, Naba’a and Sargeant are accused of using the brother in law’s connections with the government of Jordan to get the contact, and then subsequently bilking him out of the profits.
The Times article goes on to list Faisal Abdullah as the member of the Abdullah clan who has been pushing the donations among his family. Abdullah raises the funds directly from his family, who then sends the funds to Naba’a, who then sends the funds to Sargeant. Abdullah is an interesting choice for a McCain fundraiser, considering Bush has drove him away from being a fan of the Republican party.
Mr. Abdullah is an unlikely McCain fund-raiser, admitting he had soured on the Republican Party as a result of President Bush.
Now to be fair, most of the people the Times interviewed say that they made the contributions with their own money, and the Times believe that some of them may be better off than they appear. However, there are a number of red flags in the article that raise suspicion. For one, apparently Abdullah had told his family members that the contributions would be tax deductible (political contributions are not tax deductible). Abdullah also raised $9,200 from one family who despite making the contribution does not intend to vote for Senator McCain:
Abdullah Makhlouf, the owner of a discount stereo store who is one of Mr. Abdullah’s closest friends, and his wife contributed $9,200.
“He’s like a worse copy than Bush,” Mr. Makhlouf said of Mr. McCain.
When a reporter initially contacted Mr. Makhlouf, he denied giving to the McCain campaign.
After eventually admitting to the donation, Mr. Makhlouf added, “I’m still not going to vote for him.”
What does all of this prove? Well the answer right now is that is proves nothing at the moment. What this story does do, in conjunction with other stories on Senator McCain’s donors, is raise important questions about the tactics of McCain’s fundraisers. The FEC needs to investigate the action of bundlers more seriously to see if any of these donors are being used to funnel funds from Sargeant or any of his business partners in the Middle East. At the very least, Senator McCain needs to explain why at a time when he is preaching ending our dependence on foreign oil, he is having funds raised for him from a Jordanian oilman.
However, I am doubtful that either an investigation or an explanation will be coming.