Saturday, May 10, 2008

John McCain did the same thing as Rick Renzi. Will he be indicted for it too?

Rick Renzi is under indictment for using his influence in Washington to push through a Federal land swap deal that benefitted campaign donor James Sandlin, as I wrote about here. Renzi helped fast track the deal despite concerns raised by environmentalists.

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that John McCain pushed through a Federal land swap which benefitted long time supporter and campaign donor Steven Betts. McCain helped fast track the deal despite concerns raised by environmentalists. And even today, McCain's campaign website has a link to a press release about his Arizona leadership team in which Betts and his wife are listed as members of the financial arm of the campaign.

PRESCOTT, Ariz. -- Sen. John McCain championed legislation that will let an Arizona rancher trade remote grassland and ponderosa pine forest here for acres of valuable federally owned property that is ready for development, a land swap that now stands to directly benefit one of his top presidential campaign fundraisers.

Initially reluctant to support the swap, the Arizona Republican became a key figure in pushing the deal through Congress after the rancher and his partners hired lobbyists that included McCain's 1992 Senate campaign manager, two of his former Senate staff members (one of whom has returned as his chief of staff), and an Arizona insider who was a major McCain donor and is now bundling campaign checks.

When McCain's legislation passed in November 2005, the ranch owner gave the job of building as many as 12,000 homes to SunCor Development, a firm in Tempe, Ariz., run by Steven A. Betts, a longtime McCain supporter who has raised more than $100,000 for the presumptive Republican nominee. Betts said he and McCain never discussed the deal.

The Audubon Society described the exchange as the largest in Arizona history...But it brought an outcry from some Arizona environmentalists when it was proposed in 2002, partly because it went through Congress rather than a process that allowed more citizen input.

Although the bill called for the two parcels to be of equal value, a federal forestry official told a congressional committee that he was concerned that "the public would not receive fair value" for its land. A formal appraisal has not yet begun. A town official opposed to the swap said other Yavapai Ranch land sold nine years ago for about $2,000 per acre, while some of the prime commercial land near a parcel that the developers will get has brought as much as $120,000 per acre.

Well, you get the gist. Sounds a lot like what Rick Renzi may go to prison for. Almost exactly the same thing, in fact.

Of course, John McCain likely doesn't see anything wrong with pushing land swap legislation that benefits campaign donors. He certainly didn't see anything wrong with it in 2006, when in the midst of a bunch of reports about Renzi and Sandlin, McCain recorded a robocall praising Renzi for his HONESTY AND INTEGRITY BEYOND REPROACH

Obviously John McCain has a different set of ethics than the rest of us do, if Rick Renzi represents his definition of honesty and integrity.

The question is now whether he will be indicted for committing essentially the same crime as Rick Renzi committed. And further, we know that one reason it took as long as it did to indict Rick Renzi was that former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez tried to protect him by firing U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton when he started zeroing in on the connection between Renzi and James Sandlin. Wanna bet that the Bush White House pulls out all the plugs trying to protect McCain from any unwelcome probes into the relationship between him and Steven Betts?

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