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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

McCain and His Nonprofit Helper

It’s hard to believe that Sen. John McCain used to known as a champion of campaign finance reform.
Back in February, he used some questionable legal maneuvering (and the complete helplessness of a quorum-lacking Federal Elections Commission) to wiggle out of his previous commitment to accepting public matching funds for the presidential primary.
Now the Washington Post reports that the Republican nominee may have used a nonprofit to provide some serious public relations support to his presidential bid: :

For weeks, Republican presidential candidate John McCain had been hammered for supporting the Air Force’s February decision to award a $40 billion contract for refueling tankers to Northrop Grumman and its European partner. Democrats, labor unions and others blamed the senator for a deal they say could move tens of thousands of jobs abroad.
McCain’s advisers wanted to strike back against key Democratic critics. But they did not mount an expensive advertising campaign to defend the candidate’s position. They called a tax-exempt nonprofit closely aligned with the senator from Arizona, seeking information and help.

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) immediately came to the senator’s aid — working with Northrop to organize a multi-faceted public relations campaign which just happened to support McCain’s position.
Both the nonprofit and McCain’s campaign maintain that no election laws have been broken, but of course, this isn’t all that CAGW has done to support the Arizona senator. Its political arm endorsed McCain in February, and its lobbying organization has given more than $11,000 to the Republican since 2004.
And if that wasn’t enough, CAGW is also tied to Jack Abramoff.
Two years ago, staffers for the Senate Finance Committee investigated the nonprofit and concluded that the organization’s emails “show a pattern of CAGW producing public relations materials favorable to Mr. Abramoff’s clients.”
Delightful.

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