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other senators in two private meetings with federal banking regulators on Keating’sbehalf.Two years later, Lincoln collapsed, costing the U.S. taxpayers $3.4 billion. Keatingeventually went to prison and three other senators from the so-called Keating Fivesaw their political careers ruined.McCain drew a Senate reprimand for his involvement and later lamented his faultyjudgment. “Why didn’t I fully grasp the unusual appearance of such a meeting?” hewrote in his 2002 memoir,
Worth the Fighting For
.But some people close to the case thought McCain got off too easy.Not only was McCain taking donations from Keating and his business circle, gettingfree rides on Keating’s corporate jet and enjoying joint vacations in the Bahamas –McCain’s second wife, the beer fortune heiress Cindy Hensley, had invested withKeating in an Arizona shopping mall.In the years that followed, however, McCain not only got out from under the shadowof the Keating Five scandal but found a silver lining in the cloud, transforming thecase into a lessons-learned chapter of his personal narrative.McCain, as born-again reformer, soon was winning over the Washington press corpswith his sponsorship of ethics legislation, like the McCain-Feingold bill limiting “softmoney” contributions to the political parties.However, there was still that other side of John McCain as he wielded enormouspower from his position as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, whichhelped him solicit campaign donations from corporations doing business before thepanel.The Times story reported that McCain did favors on behalf of Iseman’s lobbyingclients, including two letters that McCain wrote in 1999 to the FederalCommunications Commission demanding that it act on a long-delayed request byIseman’s client, Florida-based Paxson Communications, to buy a Pittsburgh televisionstation.Rather than simply acknowledge this fact, McCain’s campaign issued anothersweeping denial of impropriety, calling those letters routine correspondence thatwere handled by staff without McCain meeting either with Paxson or anyone fromIseman’s firm, Alcalde & Fay."No representative of Paxson or Alcalde & Fay personally asked Senator McCain tosend a letter to the FCC," his campaign said.
McCain’s Own Words
But that also turned out not to be true.Newsweek’s investigative reporter Michael Isikoff dug up a sworn deposition fromSept. 25, 2002, in which McCain himself declared that “I was contacted by Mr. Paxsonon this issue. … He wanted their [the FCC’s] approval very bad for purposes of hisbusiness. I believe that Mr. Paxson had a legitimate complaint.”Though McCain claimed not to recall whether he had spoken with Paxson’s lobbyist[presumably a reference to Iseman], he added, “I’m sure I spoke to [Paxson],”according to the deposition. [SeeNewsweek’s Web posting, Feb. 22, 2008]McCain’s letters to the FCC, which Chairman William Kennard criticized as “highlyunusual,” came in the same period when Paxson’s company was ferrying McCain topolitical events aboard its corporate jet and donating $20,000 to his campaign.