Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A diamond is forever: Corruption, hypocrisy, and John McCain

By Michael J.W. Stickings

You scratch my back (raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for my political campaigns) and I'll scratch yours (open a few doors and help you make millions).

That's the nature of the relationship between John McCain and Arizona developer Donny Diamond. The NYT has the story:

Donald R. Diamond, a wealthy Arizona real estate developer, was racing to snap up a stretch of virgin California coast freed by the closing of an Army base a decade ago when he turned to an old friend, Senator John McCain.

When Mr. Diamond wanted to buy land at the base, Fort Ord, Mr. McCain assigned an aide who set up a meeting at the Pentagon and later stepped in again to help speed up the sale, according to people involved and a deposition Mr. Diamond gave for a related lawsuit. When he appealed to a nearby city for the right to develop other property at the former base, Mr. Diamond submitted Mr. McCain’s endorsement as “a close personal friend.”

Writing to officials in the city, Seaside, Calif., the senator said, “You will find him as honorable and committed as I have.”

And there's a lot more. For example:

In California, the McCain aide’s assistance with the Army helped Mr. Diamond complete a purchase in 1999 that he soon turned over for a $20 million profit. And Mr. McCain’s letter of recommendation reinforced Mr. Diamond’s selling point about his McCain connections as he pursued — and won in 2005 — a potentially much more lucrative deal to develop a resort hotel and luxury housing.

In Arizona, Mr. McCain has helped Mr. Diamond with matters as small as forwarding a complaint in a regulatory skirmish over the endangered pygmy owl, and as large as introducing legislation remapping public lands. In 1991 and 1994, Mr. McCain sponsored two laws sought by Mr. Diamond that resulted in providing him millions of dollars and thousands of acres in exchange for adding some of his properties to national parks. The Arizona senator co-sponsored a third similar bill now before the Senate.

McCain's people are denying any wrongdoing, of course, but the stench wafting up into your nostrils is a noxious mixture of corruption and hypocrisy:

A longtime political patron, Mr. Diamond is one of the elite fund-raisers Mr. McCain’s current presidential campaign calls Innovators, having raised more than $250,000 so far. At home, Mr. Diamond is sometimes referred to as “The Donald,” Arizona’s answer to Donald Trump — an outsized personality who invites public officials aboard his flotilla of yachts (the Ace, King, Jack and Queen of Diamonds), specializes in deals with the government, and unabashedly solicits support for his business interests from the recipients of his campaign contributions.

McCain's free pass in the media? Revoked.

Well, no, I wouldn't go that far. Yet. Still, it's nice to see the NYT doing its job (and not, say, being irresponsible and insinuating romantic liaisons with lobbyists).

While it is important to target McCain on the issues -- his advocacy of endless war in Iraq, his warmongering with respect to Iran, his Bush-style economic policies of deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy (like his good buddy Diamond), etc. -- it is imperative that his facade of integrity, endlessly played up by the media, for whom he can usually no wrong, be exposed for what it is: a mask hiding a corrupt and hypocritical core.

After all, he is running on his supposed integrity, supposed experience, and supposed leadership. And yet his integrity is a farce, his experience has not made him wise, and his leadership is very much in question. He may have shown political courage in the past by breaking Republican ranks and reaching out to Democrats (often, though, to friendly non-Democrats like Joe Lieberman), but he is hardly the maverick his adorers in the press corps have made him out to be.

The media have propped up an image of McCain that is nothing like the real one. At this point, he is far more right-wing ideologue than independent maverick, and his dealings with Diamond suggest that he is much dirtier than his reputation would lead us to believe.

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