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McCain's Ties to an Arizona Developer.--

The New York Times has a long story critical of John McCain's links to a rich Arizona developer, Donald Diamond (registration required):

Mr. McCain has campaigned as a critic of the corrupting influence of money and politics, saying he had learned a lesson from a late 1980s scandal over his part in an intervention with banking regulators examining a savings and loan controlled by a patron, Charles Keating. Since then, Mr. McCain vowed to embrace ethics standards that set him apart from many colleagues.

"I have carefully avoided situations that might even tangentially be construed as a less than proper use of my office," he wrote in his memoir, "Worth the Fighting For" (Random House, 2002).

Mr. McCain once publicly criticized Mr. Diamond as lobbying too hard for his own financial interests. In 1995, Mr. McCain called it "unheard of" that Mr. Diamond had hired a Washington lobbyist to try to block construction of a federal building in Tucson that threatened to take away some of his rental income. "I didn't talk to him for one year," Mr. Diamond said of Mr. McCain. "I was annoyed."

Legislating Land Deals

Mr. McCain has been willing, though, to help sponsor bills authorizing federal land exchanges that Mr. Diamond sought. Former Representative Jim Kolbe, another Arizona Republican close to Mr. Diamond, said Mr. Diamond often proposed such deals and impressed lawmakers with his frankness about the potential sensitivities, Mr. Kolbe said.

"He would tell you, 'I don't think you should get on this one, this one is too close to where you live, let another member of the delegation work on this one,' " Mr. Kolbe said. "He never tried to flim-flam you."

Such exchanges can serve a public interest by expanding parks or wilderness areas. But many environmentalists and other analysts have also concluded that such trades almost invariably give private developers a profitable bargain at public expense. Although federal rules stipulate that public land can be traded for private land only of "equal value," appraisals of unusual property or in fast-growing areas are highly variable and developers often apply political pressure to get favorable terms.

Mahan Atma (mail):
GASP!! You're quoting the New York Times???

Why, that automatically eliminates the issue from debate. Nothing more need be said about this issue whatseover.
4.22.2008 2:32am
Mahan Atma (mail):
Personally, I prefer this quote:

When he got to know Mr. McCain and his wife, Cindy, Mr. Diamond said, "it became a love fest."


Ewwwww.....
4.22.2008 2:34am
Constantin:
How revealing is it that the NYT's effort to even things out with Rezko, Wright, Ayers, et al. is to tie McCain to a developer. For some reason it calls to mind a scene in The Naked Gun where bad guy Ricardo Montalban threatens an entire litany of evil deeds, then tells the victim "Don't think I won't do it, either. Don't forget, I was a building contractor for two years."
4.22.2008 4:47am
ed in texas (mail):
"other analysts have also concluded that such trades almost invariably give private developers a profitable bargain at public expense"

Excuse me for asking a dumb question. Why else would a developer want to do the deal?
Just askin'.
4.22.2008 8:49am
Prof. S. (mail):

"other analysts have also concluded that such trades almost invariably give private developers a profitable bargain at public expense"

Excuse me for asking a dumb question. Why else would a developer want to do the deal?
Just askin'.


Reminds me of a story one of our professors told us about a deposition. The line went something like this:

Q: Have you ever bought something for the amount its worth?

A: Of course not. Dad drown the stupid ones.

Unfortunately, the court reporter was changing the tape at the time and it didn't get picked up on the transcript, or so the story goes.
4.22.2008 9:58am
huskerfan:
Prof,

Could you please provide the other links of this long critical relationship between the NYT and this land developer?
4.22.2008 10:15am
Prof. S. (mail):
From the story:


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.
...
Mr. Diamond, for his part, said Mr. McCain had only done his job. "I think that is what Congress people are supposed to do for constituents," he said. "When you have a big, significant businessman like myself, why wouldn't you want to help move things along? What else would they do? They waste so much time with legislation."

He said he often complained to Mr. McCain that he was "too straight" about refusing to provide federal help for Arizona businessmen. "I tell him, 'You are an Arizona senator besides being the world senator. Loosen up, kid!' "
...
Mr. McCain once publicly criticized Mr. Diamond as lobbying too hard for his own financial interests. In 1995, Mr. McCain called it "unheard of" that Mr. Diamond had hired a Washington lobbyist to try to block construction of a federal building in Tucson that threatened to take away some of his rental income. "I didn't talk to him for one year," Mr. Diamond said of Mr. McCain. "I was annoyed."
...
In 1994, Mr. McCain sponsored, along with a Senate colleague at the time, Dennis DeConcini, Democrat of Arizona, another law expanding the park by again acquiring land from Mr. Diamond. To carry out the expansion, the Interior Department has so far taken over about 630 acres from Mr. Diamond in exchange for about 4,300 acres near Phoenix.
...
Though Mr. McCain helped with the Fort Ord deals, Mr. Diamond said, he still thinks that Mr. McCain is too worried about avoiding any appearance of a favor. "He doesn't bring home enough for the state," Mr. Diamond said. "It is a sore subject between us."


The headline ought to read: "Arizona Senator helps Local Businessman."

Talk about much ado about nothing. Proof you can take any set of specially selected points and draw a line through it if that's your goal.
4.22.2008 10:19am
MnZ:
Why are we focusing on distractions rather than real issues that matter the American people?

Oh wait...McCain is a Republican...blast away NYT.
4.22.2008 10:34am
Orson Buggeigh:
For comparison, check out Captain Ed Morrisey's post this morning over at Hot Air on this. He notes that Harry Reid's family has ties to an outfit with profited from a federal land swap which was promoted by the Sierra Club. This land deal, which Morrissey claims profited Reid's family much more than the deal McCain was involved in, received essentially no coverage in the NYT. This is, of course, no surprise.
4.22.2008 11:00am
byomtov (mail):
I think McCain's reflexive defenders here should, as someone says, "read the whole thing."

Some excerpts that Jim left out:


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...

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...

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. ...

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...

In the first deal, Mr. McCain was the sole Senate sponsor of a 1991 law authorizing the Department of the Interior to acquire about 2,000 acres of the ranch, which local environmentalists valued at about $5 million but Mr. Diamond and parks appraisers put at around $30 million.

Over the next five years, the government paid him more than $23 million for the land and traded him two parcels of about 50 acres in upscale Scottsdale, Ariz. And the expanded Saguaro also added to the value of the remaining Rocking K land, where Mr. Diamond is still planning to build 3,000 houses along with resorts and golf courses.
4.22.2008 11:13am
JonC:
Hot Air has a discussion of this article here. Some facts that the piece fails to highlight: 1) the legislation did not mandate the sale of any land, it merely permitted the Department of the Interior to execute land exchanges; 2) Neither McCain nor his family had any pecuniary interest in the land deals; 3) the Sierra Club at the time supported the legislation, going so far as to write to a local AZ newspaper to praise McCain and denounce claims that the bills were simply political favoritism.
4.22.2008 1:35pm
BGates:
Ooh, the 'sole Senate sponsor' of a law. You would think a bill that essentially affects one state might have as many as two Senate sponsors. Did McCain have the power to make law all by himself in 1991, or did he need help from the Democratic majority?
4.22.2008 1:36pm
WHOI Jacket:
Sen. McCain used the "get one bill free" card that they hand out at the swearing-in ceremony for the bill.......I suppose.
4.22.2008 1:44pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Just think of it as a reverse eminent domain for public benefit.

The State of Arizona probably benefits greatly from the new developments - start with the property tax differential between undeveloped land and a completed subdivision.

As long as the legislator is not pushing this swap for a personal/family pecuniary benefit or for a bribe, I don't have any more of a problem with it than I do with other special interest legislation. What's next? Complaining that Senators from Texas and Louisiana are pushing for tax code changes that benefit the oil industry?

Nick
4.22.2008 2:01pm
Iolo:
I find this far less offensive than McCain-Feingold, McCain-Lieberman, McCain-Kennedy, and McCain-Kennedy-Edwards.
4.22.2008 2:01pm
Nunzio:
This is pretty weak sauce, again, from the NYT.
4.22.2008 2:20pm
EIDE_Interface (mail):
Finally it's time to go after McCain after 60 days of bashing Obama. IT's just not fair~
4.22.2008 3:02pm
Nunzio:
The mainstream media is not bashing Obama or McCain. But if they're going to tie either of them to inside deals or actions that have no benefit other than for one of their political benefactors, then do it.


What "many environmentalists and other analysts" think is not a substitute for actual reporting. Did McCain benefit in any way other than this guy has helped raise $250,000 for his presidential campaign.

Did Diamond hoodwink anyone out of anything. Was this a good deal for both sides of the transaction or not?

I'm not saying the NYT has to catch McCain with $90k in greenbacks in his freezer, but this is a bs story.
4.22.2008 3:10pm
PaddyL (mail):
It is intriguing that the NYT attacks McCain because he favored a project of a loyal supporter. What demagoguery. The NYT has yet to report about the actual conflicts of interest that were ignored when Feinstein, Pelosi, Murtha, Mollahan, Byrd, and Reid favored projects and government contracts that enriched them and their families.
4.22.2008 4:13pm
Crust (mail):
Nunzio:
Did McCain benefit in any way other than this guy has helped raise $250,000 for his presidential campaign[?] ... this is a bs story.

If those donations were a quid for the quo of Diamond getting to buy the land on the cheap, then this would definitely not be a bs story. Sure, it would not be on the level of cash in the freezer or accepting a bribe in the form of an antique commode, but yes that would be a significant story. Now I doubt there was a quid pro quo, certainly not an explicit one, so I'm not sure this should be a big story. It's hard not to smile though when the campaign for Senator Straight Talk describes this as routine constituent service.
4.22.2008 5:53pm
davod (mail):
"He notes that Harry Reid's family has ties to an outfit with profited from a federal land swap which was promoted by the Sierra Club. This land deal, which Morrissey claims profited Reid's family much more than the deal McCain was involved in, received essentially no coverage in the NYT. This is, of course, no surprise."

I recall reading about Reid's real estate problems in an AZ newspaper last year. His appeared the same or worse thn those of that the AZ Republican congressman has been indicted for.
4.22.2008 6:52pm
Nunzio:
Crust,

That's my point. Where's the quid pro quo here. These land swaps benefitted more than Mr. Diamond, unless I'm missing something. Were they a good deal or not at the time? The NYT doesn't have anything here.

$250,000 to the campaign of a guy whose wife is worth $100 million. You've got to be kidding me that McCain or anyone in Congress in their right mind would dole out anything for such a relatively paltry sum.

No doubt Straight Talk is a slogan, but anyone in Congress who helps someone get something done that the Senator or Rep thinks is a good thing for their constituents or the ubiquitous "American people" is not beholden to special interests.

I always thought McCain's shortcoming is that he jumps to conclusions, a la the NYT, that many people who vote for a piece of legislation and also receive contributions from those who the legislation benefits are "beholden to special interests." If you agree with something because you think it's a good idea then you're not beholden to special interests. It's only when you think it's a bad idea (or even maybe are indifferent) that the accusation has any legs.

Does anyone think W. and Cheney support oil companies because they donated to their campaigns while privately thinking, gee this is bad for the environment, the economy, and national security.
4.22.2008 7:26pm
LM (mail):
Nunzio,

I find the noisy character attacks against all three candidates more prejudicial than probative, but it's politics, so what else is new? As for why this qualifies with the rest, you inadvertently hit on it in your dictum:

I always thought McCain's shortcoming is that he jumps to conclusions, a la the NYT, that many people who vote for a piece of legislation and also receive contributions from those who the legislation benefits are "beholden to special interests."

You're right that without better evidence of a quid prop quo, The Times makes a weak case for corruption. But to the extent there's a legitimate charge, it isn't corruption. It's hypocrisy.
4.22.2008 8:06pm
neurodoc:
I don't have too clear recall of the details, but it seems to me that the NYT saved itself hundreds of $Ms in taxes through the exploitation of "loopholes" a few years ago when developing its NYC property in a deal that they might have editorialized against if it were anyone other than themselves doing it.
4.23.2008 1:51am