McCain vs. Illegal Campaign Contributions

by twit

This is special. Done in by a 1993 Chevy Cavalier.

It sure smells illegal:

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.

… The donations, first traced by Campaign Money Watch last week, were part of $1.2 million in oil industry contributions to McCain’s Victory ‘08 Committee, 73 percent coming after McCain reversed his long-held opposition to offshore oil drilling.

update! More special fun from the McCain campaign, starring Harry Sargeant III:

The 2008 presidential campaign, which could see each side spend close to $500 million, has heightened the importance of “bundlers” such as Sargeant, who not only write checks themselves but also recruit scores of other donors to give the legal limit of $2,300. Questions about such donor networks have repeatedly emerged as points of stress for the campaigns.

In January, Norman Hsu, a top Clinton bundler, was indicted in part on charges of circumventing legal giving limits by routing contributions though “straw donors.” Earlier this week, McCain drew questions about more than $60,000 in donations that were made this year to the Republican National Committee and his campaign by an office manager with the Hess oil company and her husband, an Amtrak track foreman. In that case, the couple said they used their own money.

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.

Both Sargeant and the donors were vague when asked to explain how Sargeant persuaded them to give away so much money.

Yes, it is that difficult to explain why regular people would support McCain.

update: via TPM, the LA TImes tries and fails miserably to explain how the folks driving the 1993 Chevy Cavalier managed to come up with such a generous contribution:

… records suggest that the Rocchios are not without resources. The couple listed an address in Flushing, N.Y., and also have an Arizona home.

update: TPM Election Central has more about the Rocchios, including that they appear to rent at their New York address:

Alice Rocchio, a Hess office manager, and her husband, Pasquale Rocchio, an Amtrak “track foreman,” rent a house in Flushing, Queens

and appear to have a mortgage on their Arizona property:

Real estate records show they purchased a North Carolina property in 2006, and in 2007 took out a loan to buy another property in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The Rocchios sound like all the folks who speculated that the housing market would go nowhere but up and bought properties on loan because of it. I wonder how that is working out for them.

update: more numbers from the NY Times blog The Caucus:

Publicly available information about the Rocchios offers a mixed picture of their socio-economic situation. They appear to rent their home in Flushing, a working class community in Queens, although property records also show they purchased a condominium in Arizona last year for more than $560,000 and a home in North Carolina for $525,000 in 2006. Motor vehicle records show a 2003 Buick and 1993 Chevrolet registered in their names.

and of course, the automated message from the McCain campaign:

Brian Rogers, a spokesman for the McCain campaign, said officials have gone back and examined the donations from the Hess Corporation, including from the Rocchios, but found nothing untoward.

“We went back and looked at,” he said. “We followed the law. If anything raises a flag, then we’ll obviously look further into it. But at this point, there’s no indication that anything happened.”

which is awfully sweet of them to say. Especially since McClatchy reports this:

A former FEC official said that it’s possible that the Rocchios had the means to make those hefty contributions — their first reported donations to a federal campaign.

But the official, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter, said that their donations also could trigger a complaint or otherwise catch the eyes of the agency’s enforcement staff, tasked to ensure that companies or wealthy individuals don’t illegally circumvent contribution limits by using employees or other third parties as “conduits” for cash.

The staff might wish to determine whether the couple is too “under-employed” to be making donations that large, the official said.

The staff might also wish to take a look at the other “unlikely donors” that are being reported on…

update: The New York Times reports that the McCain campaign has returned $50,000 in donations:

The move follows the disclosure that the money was being raised by a Jordanian man who is a business partner of prominent Florida Republican Harry Sargeant III, who has collected hundreds of thousands of dollars for McCain.

The New York Times reported Thursday that Sargeant allowed a longtime business partner, Mustafa Abu Naba’a, to bring in some $50,000 in donations in March from members of a single extended family in California, the Abdullahs, along with several of their friends.

[…] According to the Times, Abu Naba’a is a dual citizen of Jordan and the Dominican Republic.

It is illegal for foreigners to contribute their own money to U.S. political campaigns, and McCain’s campaign said Abu Naba’a did not do so.

But McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said some of the people solicited by Abu Naba’a had no intention of supporting McCain for president.

Rogers said ”that just didn’t sound right to us” so the money is being returned.

well, if “just doesn’t sound right” is the standard the McCain campaign is using to decide whether to investigate its donors, how about this fun fact from the Caucus:

“Mr. Rocchio is enrolled as a Democrat”

that doesn’t sound right…


4 Responses to McCain vs. Illegal Campaign Contributions

  1. Benwha11 says:

    It should be noted that the Post had to retract statements made in the story on Sargeant.

  2. lestro says:

    duly noted.

    it should also be noted, however, that the corrections made to the Post story do not apply to the quotes used in this post or affect the overall message of the post.

    To view the correction, click here.

  3. am I missing something? the only corrections I can find for the Washington Post story are these:

    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.

    and there is this from McClatchy on Aug 11 2008:

    WASHINGTON — A political watchdog group called for investigations Monday to determine whether fundraisers for John McCain’s presidential campaign arranged illegal “straw” donations — contributions from people who did not spend their own money.

    Campaign Money Watch urged Attorney General Michael Mukasey to probe the activities of Florida defense contractor Harry Sargeant III, who is credited with raising more than $500,000 for the campaign. It also questioned $57,000 in donations from an office manager for the oil giant, the Hess Corp., and her husband, a railroad foreman.

    … [David Donnelly, the executive director of Campaign Money Watch] also urged an investigation of two donations of $28,500 each by Alice Rocchio, the Hess Corp. office manager, and by her husband, Pasquale, to a joint fundraising committee set up by McCain and the Republican National Committee.

  4. Pingback: Johnny Mac would NEVER cheat « The Church of the Apocalyptic Kiwi

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