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.”
Courting local officials and potential partners, Mr. Diamond’s team promised that he could “help get through some of the red tape in dealing with the Department of the Army” because Mr. Diamond “has been very active with Senator McCain” a partner said in a deposition.
For Mr. McCain, the Arizona Republican who has staked two presidential campaigns on pledges to avoid even the appearance of dispensing an official favor for a donor, Mr. Diamond is the kind of friend who can pose a test.
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.
Mr. McCain has occasionally rebuffed Mr. Diamond’s entreaties as inappropriate, but he has also taken steps that benefited his friend’s real estate empire. Their 26-year relationship illuminates how Mr. McCain weighs requests from a benefactor against his vows, adopted after a brush with scandal two decades ago, not to intercede with government authorities on behalf of a donor or take other official action that serves no clear public interest.
Captain Ed asks, essentially, where’s the scandal?
Jim Rutenberg has a new beat at the New York Times, and it must be called the Get McCain desk. He co-wrote the abominable story about Vicki Iseman in February that attempted to insinuate that McCain had traded legislative favors for sexual favors, only his story didn’t have a shred of evidence of either. Today, in another page-one blockbuster, Rutenberg claims that McCain gave out legislative favors in land-swap deals — but fails to mention that they had widespread support from legislators, businessmen, and environmentalists.
First, let’s congratulate Rutenberg on his interest in land deals involving the Senate. Unfortunately, he chose the wrong target. Despite several investigations by the AP and the Los Angeles Times, Rutenberg failed to cover or even mention the land deals that directly benefited Harry Reid personally, fueled by land swaps he explicitly sponsored. I wrote about this extensively in 2006, including in a column for the New York Post. Reid’s family got employed by his partner in these deals and both Reid and his family made a lot of money off the sale of federally-owned land.
None of that happened here. In fact, the legislation McCain sponsored didn’t require the sale of the parcels at issue in Rutenberg’s article at all. It authorized the Secretary of the Interior to swap land as deemed necessary and beneficial. Neither McCain nor his family had any personal stake in the land deals that Donald Diamond negotiated with Interior, nor did McCain write legislation requiring Interior to sell anything at all to Diamond.
Read the whole thing, as Ed pretty much demolishes the NYT’s latest attempt at digging up dirt on McCain.
In other McCain-related news, Jim Geraghty reports on an emerging theme coming from prominent Democrats, including Hillary Clinton supporter George McGovern and that is to … attack McCain’s war service. Geraghty calls McGovern a “jerk” – but that’s putting it mildly, I think.
Whatever it takes to win, right?