Did McCain KNOW the RNC Bought Palin the Shopping Spree?


WT has been chronicling Sarah’s extreme makeover, including this picture (AP/Carolyn Kaster) she captions, "YOU told me I could keep the clothing!" I think she’s right–there’s a load of tension there.

And I think several things suggest the breaking news of Sarah’s spree is the precipitating factor in recent chilliness between McCain and his Caribou Barbie.  There’s the terse way McCain responds to questions about it.

Presidential candidate John McCain isn’t happy about having to explain why the Republican Party has had to buy running mate Sarah Palin $150,000 in clothes, hair styling and accessories.

McCain was asked several questions on Thursday about the shopping spree — and he answered each one more or less the same way: Palin needed clothes and they’ll be donated to charity.

There’s the "tenseness" that Chuck Todd notes. Todd’s wrong to suggest McCain and Palin weren’t comfortable with each other, yet–after all there was plenty of chemistry about four weeks ago (at least on the part of McCain; Palin’s always been a little uncomfortable when he leered at her), and they traveled together and hung out in Sedona for a good chunk of that period of time. So I think Todd’s other suggestion–that McCain is blaming Palin for their failing campaign–makes more sense. And given the timing, the blame seems focused on the latest abusurdity of the $150,000 shopping spree.

Add in the well-reported history of McCain–the guy formerly known as a maverick reformer–attacking precisely this kind of campaign expenditure.

MCCAIN: Madam President, the amendment before the Senate is a very simple one. It restricts the use of campaign funds for inherently personal purposes. The amendment would restrict individuals from using campaign funds for such things as home mortgage payments, clothing purchases … and vacations or other trips that are noncampaign in nature. […]

The use of campaign funds for items which most Americans would consider to be strictly personal reasons, in my view, erodes public confidence and erodes it significantly.
[emphasis TP’s]

Not that ignorance would exonerate McCain one bit–he still owns resposibility for allowing his campaign to do something that, in his own view, "erodes public confidence." But this signals the degree to which even McCain (who after all has better than average self-delusion skills) has to recognize that his campaign refutes everything the myth of the maverick reformer was supposed to be about.

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McCain Campaign Whines that NYT Paid Heed to Their Letter

There’s something funny about the McCain campaign’s complaints about the NYT’s front page piece on Cindy today. They released a letter that John Dowd sent to the NYT on October 1. He writes:

I write to appeal to your sense of fairness, balance and decency in deciding whether to publish another story about her. I do this well knowing your paper’s obvious bias for Barack Obama and your obvious hostility to John McCain. I ask you to put your biases and agendas aside.


I am advised that you assigned two of your top investigative reporters who have spent an extensive amount of time in Arizona and around the country investigating Cindy’s life including her charity, her addiction and her marriage to Senator McCain. None of these subjects are news.

I am also advised that your reporters are speaking to Tom Gosinski and her cousin Jamie Clark, neither of whom are reliable or credible sources. Mr. Gosinski has been publicly exposed as a liar and a blackmailer on the subject of Cindy McCain. Jamie Clark has very serious drug and stability issues and has failed in a number of attempts to blackmail Cindy. She is simply not credible.

[two long paragraphs on Gosinski] 

Any further attempts to harrass or injure her based on the information from Gosinski and Clark will be met with an appropriate response. While she may be in the public eye, she is not public property nor the property of the press to abuse and defame.


I ask you to let Cindy McCain carry on in her usual understated, selfless and dignified way. The fabrications and lies of blackmailers are not fit to print in any newspaper but particularly not the New York Times.

In short, this letter is primarily a thinly disguised (and, IM[NAL]O, legally suspect) warning against repeating the stories of Gosinski and Clark. Note, for example, that Dowd’s letter was written more than two weeks after the WaPo published a story heavily reliant on Gosinski as a source, which Dowd has apparently not responded to with threats of "an appropriate response." Nevertheless, Dowd wrote Bill Keller and tried to scare Keller away from reporting on Gosinski.

So, 18 days after Dowd wrote his letter, the NYT wrote their piece. Look closely at it. See what’s not in it?

Any reference to Gosinski or Clark. Read more

Sugar Momma? Did You Buy John a Lead on Intrade?

Congressional Quarterly confirms something Nate Silver pointed out some time ago. Someone has been trying to game the online market Intrade to make it look like John McCain was winning.

An internal investigation by the popular online market Intrade has revealed that a single investor’s purchases prompted “unusual” price swings that significantly boosted the prediction that Sen. John McCain will become president.

Over the past several weeks, the investor has pushed hundreds of thousands of dollars into one of Intrade’s predictive markets for the presidential election, the company said, resulting in repeated monetary losses through a strategy that belies any financial motive.

“The trading that caused the unusual price movements and discrepancies was principally due to a single ‘institutional’ member on Intrade,” said the company’s chief executive, John Delaney, in a statement released Thursday. “We have been in contact with the firm on a number of occasions. I have spoken to those involved personally.”

After an extensive investigation into the suspicious trading patterns, Intrade found no wrongdoing or violation of its exchange rules, the company said. [my emphasis]

CQ goes on at some length to explain what a stupid "investor" this person was and how much money she (or he) wasted telegraphing to other investors when she (or he) would be dumping large sums into the market and paying extra because she (or he) invested exclusively in this market. Whoever was doing the market manipulation, CQ concluded, had to be trying to influence appearances, not make a buck.

So who would dump money on a transparent (well, at least to Nate Silver) attempt to make John McCain look more successful than he was?

Honestly, there’s absolutely no reason to think it really was McCain’s Sugar Momma buying off the market. This person is, for the moment at least, just an anonymous someone willing to dump hundreds of thousands of dollars into make the failing McCain campaign look better. Though Intrade completely discredits itself as a market by refusing to state whether McCain’s fan was associated with his campaign.

Citing privacy policies, Delaney would not elaborate on who the investor was or whether or not that investor was affiliated in any way with a political campaign. [my emphasis]

But just so you know, Intrade still wants you to believe that they’re "generally more accurate" than polls.

Intrade. Where all the fashionable trophy wives go to buy their men a lead.

“She May Switch To An American Designer”

If she becomes First Lady.

I guess that’s SugarMomma’s idea of sacrificing for her country, swapping her $3000 German suits for $3000 American ones. Perhaps, as someone who doesn’t wear $3000 suits, I don’t understand the point, but if it would be important for the First Lady of the United States to stick to American designers, don’t you think the woman auditioning to be First Lady ought to do the same?

Anyway, I don’t know why, but I find these examinations of Cindy McCain’s wealth fascinating, in a train wreck kind of way. The country is heading into (at best) a deep recession and people are having trouble paying for food, yet this woman has–sometime in the last year–spent $500,000 in one month on her Amex Card.

Their credit card bills peaked between January 2007 and May 2008, during which time Cindy McCain charged as much as $500,000 in a single month on one American Express card and $250,000 on another, while one of their two dependent children had an AmEx card with a monthly balance as large as $50,000.

And in an era when millions of people are losing their homes, the McCains have raised the "budget" for servant salaries from the price of a modest home in many parts of the country to the price of a really nice home.

The McCains increased their budget for household employees from $184,000 in 2006 to $273,000 in 2007, according to John McCain’s tax returns.

(For the record, "budget" is the Politico’s term, not the McCain’s. I rather suspect they don’t use that word, much less the concept.)

And Cindy’s solution to the problem of fighting with her kids to get into the Coronado condo is to simply buy a second one.

Cindy McCain, through another family corporation, spent about $4.7 million in 2004 and 2008 on two condos in an exclusive building in Coronado, Calif., an affluent San Diego suburb noted for its high percentage of military retirees.

In her recent Vogue interview, conducted from the newer Coronado condo, McCain explained that her husband, a Navy veteran, initially wasn’t keen on the idea of a pied-à-terre in Coronado.

"When I bought the first one, my husband, who is not a beach person, said, ‘Oh, this is such a waste of money; the kids will never go,’” she told Vogue. Read more

Is Mark Schauer a Better Cook than Cindy McCain?

You’ve no doubt heard that Cindy McCain got caught–again–plagiarizing someone else’s recipes.

Frankly, I’m not really sure why we insist our candidates’ spouses prove their authenticity by whipping out family recipes they may or may not have (though you’d think Cindy might just avoid getting in trouble the next time by revealing Budweiser’s recipe for piss-water).

But I do think there’s something to be said for candidates who can negotiate the banal world of everyday existence. When the spouse of the $100,000,000 Sugar Momma tells Ohioans that the crummy economy is all in their heads, and when the President needs the press corps to tell him that gas is (was) approaching $4 a gallon, it’s gratifying to know that some politicians can still negotiate the little errands that you and I run on a daily basis.

Which is why I think this video of Blue America-endorsed candidate for MI’s 7th Congressional District, Mark Schauer, is so cool. Mark’s making his wife’s pasty recipe (for the uninformed, a "pasty"–with a soft "a": paasty–is the hand-held pot pie that MI’s Upper Peninsula is famous for). And doing so damned competently. If you had any doubt he’s used this recipe once or twice before, those doubts will be answered by the way he crimps the pie-crust.

And just as importantly, he does the shopping too, knowing from experience which onion to get for the recipe (if this were mr. emptywheel, at the point he got the onion bin, he’d be likely to call me to figure out exactly what we needed).

Now, they’ve re-released this YouTube as part of a fundraising gig: Mark’s going to pick one donor out of a hat; not only will he make pasty for that donor, but he’ll do the dishes, too. So if you’re local to MI’s 7th CD, see if you can win a pasty from MI 7th’s next Congressman. But if you’re just feeling the need to support better Democrats this week (I know I am), donate through Blue America.

Cindy’s abject failure to produce her own cookie recipe will likely have little effect on whether her husband decides to "bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran." But having a Congressman who knows his way around the average grocery store would sure be a welcome addition to MI’s congressional delegation.

$225,000 in Credit Card Debt

Cindy McCain is carrying more debt on credit cards than 80% of Americans’ total net worth.

Mr. McCain and his wife had at least $225,000 in credit card debt and that Mr. Obama and his wife had put more than $200,000 into college funds for their daughters.

The bulk of the McCains’ obligations stemmed from a pair of American Express credit cards that are held in Cindy McCain’s name. According to the disclosure reports, which present information on debts in a range rather than providing a precise figure, Mrs. McCain owed $100,000 to $250,000 on each card.

Another charge card, held by what was described as a “dependent child,” had also accumulated debts of $15,000 to $50,000. In addition, a credit card held jointly by the couple was carrying $10,000 to $15,000 in debt, the filing indicated, at a stiff 25.99 percent interest rate.

I know she’s a rich heiress and all. I know she tends to be well coiffed and nicely dressed. But this strikes me as an astounding amount of money.

And it raises several questions for me:

  • Are some of these expenses campaign fees? That would explain the high balances, obviously, but wouldn’t that be another case of McCain riding the Sugar Momma Express? (And I’m curious, is the "dependent child" the 23-year old Meghan McCain, in which case that credit card would also be campaign expenses?)
  • Are these monthly expenses? Again, if they’re campaign related, I guess they wouldn’t be a surprise. But if Cindy McCain is spending $200,000 a month on luxury goods … well, at least she’d be doing her part to keep the American economy afloat.
  • Or are these credit cards carried balances (normally on Amex, you can’t do that, but they tend to make exceptions for people who spend that much)? In which case you’d think the McCains would spend of that $225,000 on an accountant who would help them pay their bills monthly.
  • Does anyone else remember the $2,500 campaign credit card charge at Barney’s? The campaign explained away the charge to a stolen credit card. Funny, though, the way both the stolen credit card and the one still in possession have such expensive tastes, huh?

I’m obviously just a DFH blogger, so I can’t really fathom how much I could spend if I put my mind to it. Does this strike anyone as excessive?

Oh, That’s Why McCain Can’t Keep Shiite and Sunni Straight

Because he’s "dizzy."

Also revealed: He has occasional momentary episodes of dizziness, when he gets up suddenly. McCain first told a doctor about them in 2000 — a visit that also uncovered the melanoma — and intense testing concluded they were harmless vertigo. He didn’t report any episodes at his most recent exam.

So I guess in the McCain family, not only is John not the breadwinner of the family, but in spite of the fact that he has a beautiful blonde wife, he’s the dizzy one. 

One Very Special Disclosure Survey

After losing a slew of dictator-connected advisors in the last week, the McCain campaign has finally decided it might be a good idea to vet the people hanging out with John McCain.

McCain campaign manager Rick Davis moved to avoid a recurrence of the situation with his conflict-of-interest policy, released late yesterday. It also sought to stem the impression that McCain’s campaign is run by lobbyists — a characterization Democrats have tried to make since it was reported that a senior adviser, Charlie Black, made lobbying calls from McCain’s signature bus, the Straight Talk Express. Davis himself is currently on leave from his lobbying and consulting firm, and the campaign removed two other officials this week for work they’d done on behalf of Burmese junta.


The memo establishes a new vetting process, requiring campaign aides to fill out a questionnaire on their status and to provide proof to the campaign legal department that they’ve terminated outside contracts.

In an show of civic responsibility, Progressive Media USA has filled out the forms for five of McCain’s top advisors. Here, for example, is part of Charlie Black’s now-completed survey:

McCain Staff Lobbyist Survey

NAME: Charlie Black

CAMPAIGN ROLE: Senior Political Adviser

Have you ever registered as a federal lobbyist?

Have you ever been a registered foreign agent?

Please list all of the foreign governments, political and other interests you lobbied for:
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It’s Not Just McCain’s Advisors with Financial Ties to Evil Dictators; It’s His Wife

The other day, Cliff did a post listing all the ties to bloody dictators McCain’s advisors have. They include ties to dictators in Myanmar, Zaire, Nigeria, Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, and–through Sun Myung Moon, North Korea.

Well, apparently, it’s not just his advisors McCain has to worry about. It’s also his wife:

Cindy McCain, whose husband has been a critic of the violence in Sudan, sold off more than $2 million in mutual funds whose holdings include companies that do business in the African nation.

The sale on Wednesday came after The Associated Press questioned the investments in light of calls by John McCain, the likely Republican presidential nominee, for international financial sanctions against the Sudanese leadership.


According to McCain’s personal financial disclosure, Cindy McCain’s investments include two mutual funds — American Funds Europacific Growth fund and American Funds Capital World Growth and Income fund — that are listed by the Sudan Divestment Task Force as targets for divestment.

"Those have been sold as of today," said McCain spokesman Brian Rogers.

Both funds have holdings in Oil & Natural Gas Corp., an India-based company that does business in Sudan. The American Funds Capital World Growth & Income Fund also has holdings in Petrochina, a Chinese government-owned oil company with vast investments in Sudan.

Last year, in a speech on energy policy to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, McCain cited China’s investments in Sudan as an example of regimes that survive off free-flowing petro dollars.


On Wednesday, Rogers said: "Senator and Mrs. McCain remain committed to doing everything possible to end the genocide in Darfur."

Rogers also said, "Now that you’ve busted the McCains failing to meet the standards Senator McCain claims to uphold on the campaign trail, we’ve decided Cindy should release her tax returns, just so you can be sure there are no other surprises like this–or her onetime $400,000 investment with Charles Keating that almost ruined Senator McCain’s career."

Oh wait, he didn’t say that last bit. Silly me! The McCain campaign obviously doesn’t need help vetting its staff and Cindy’s bank accounts!

Update: small edits thanks to watercarrier4diogenes. 

The Sugar Momma Express

So, apparently, in addition to riding around on the Straight Talk for Lobbyists Express, John McCain has also been flying around the Sugar Momma Express.

Given Senator John McCain’s signature stance on campaign finance reform, it was not surprising that he backed legislation last year requiring presidential candidates to pay the actual cost of flying on corporate jets. The law, which requires campaigns to pay charter rates when using such jets rather than cheaper first-class fares, was intended to reduce the influence of lobbyists and create a level financial playing field.

But over a seven-month period beginning last summer, Mr. McCain’s cash-short campaign gave itself an advantage by using a corporate jet owned by a company headed by his wife, Cindy McCain, according to public records. For five of those months, the plane was used almost exclusively for campaign-related purposes, those records show.

Mr. McCain’s campaign paid a total of $241,149 for the use of that plane from last August through February, records show. That amount is approximately the cost of chartering a similar jet for a month or two, according to industry estimates.

Nice. John McCain is flying around in his Sugar Momma Express to make speeches to struggling working Americans in which he tells them the economic woes of this country are all psychological–all in their head. In fact, when he likened carrying his own suitcase to the economic struggles of Youngstown, Ohio, what he really meant was that he had to carry his own suitcase … from his Sugar Momma Express.

In any case, this further solidifies the importance of allowing us to see Cindy McCain’s tax returns. These subsidized plane flights were actually provided by Hensley & Company.

It is owned by Hensley & Company, through a holding company, King Aviation. Mrs. McCain is the chairwoman of Hensley, which is one of the country’s biggest distributors of Anheuser-Busch products. Hensley was founded by Mrs. McCain’s father, James Hensley, and her uncle.

It was her late father’s fortune, which also includes real estate, that helped start Mr. McCain’s political career. King Aviation is listed on Mr. McCain’s Senate disclosure forms as one of his wife’s assets.

If Hensley & Company subsidized those flights as a corporation, then McCain owes a whole bundle more in reimbursement. If Hensely & Company subsidized those flights because Cindy is John’s Sugar Momma, then that means you cannot separate her finances from his.