As I mentioned in a February 5 blog item, The Washington Post recently reported on McCain's meeting with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who had his visa revoked by the U.S.government because of his "suspected links to anti-democratic and organized-crime figures." McCain's campaign manager Rick Davis assisted in putting the two men together in 2006.
Davis told the Post that his contacts with Deripaska "all relate to my private business and have nothing to do with Senator John McCain." The Post said there was no evidence of wrongdoing, or of some sort of tit-for-tat. Still, such coziness with a billionaire recalls a certain coziness with a high-roller named Charles Keating.
Indeed, the ghost of the Keating Five scandal is always close by McCain. I was reminded of this in watching grizzled old legal warhorse Robert Bennett being pulled out of the barn to defend McCain in this recent joust with The New York Times. Attorney Bennett (who's famous for defending Bill Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky case), led the Senate ethics investigation in the Keating affair back in the '80s. Bennett was criticized by another member of the Keating Five, Senator Dennis DeConcini, in his recent memoir, Senator Dennis DeConcini: From the Center of the Aisle.
In the book, DeConcini, a centrist Dem, charged that Bennett was attempting to make the controversy a "Democrat scandal" by steering it away from McCain, the scandal's sole Republican. DeConcini asserts that McCain was knee-deep in guilt. As I wrote in the Bird column "McCain Shame,"
McCain made out like a bandito, scoring a whopping $112K from Keating's [fundraising]efforts. Indeed, McCain and the slimy S&L-er were thick as thieves. While serving in the House from 1983 to 1986, McCain flew with Keating to the latter's private retreat in the Bahamas aboard Keating corporate aircraft. And the senator's trophy wife, Cindy McCain, along with her pops, invested $359K in a Phoenix shopping mall developed by an offshoot of Keating's American Continental Corporation.