McCain nets $1.75M at Reed-linked event

August 18, 2008 7:42:25 PM PDT
John McCain raised more than $1.75 million for Republicans Monday at a fundraiser that became high profile after a political operative connected to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff promoted it.The event was promoted by Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition. McCain's campaign said it was organized by the Republican National Committee - not Reed, who was linked to the Abramoff scandal that McCain investigated in the Senate.

McCain didn't note the issue during his 22-minute appearance.

Instead, he thanked donors to the Republicans' umbrella campaign fund.

"Everybody in this room could be someplace else," the Arizona senator told the crowd of several hundred. "Everybody in this room could be donating to some other cause or to their own well-being. But I want to thank you."

Reed was not seen inside the hotel ballroom; a McCain campaign spokeswoman said he did not attend. But Democrat Barack Obama's rival presidential campaign sought to make him an issue, asking how much Reed-linked money was raised or would be kept by McCain's campaign.

"Faced with the embarrassing prospect of holding a fundraiser with one of Jack Abramoff's closest associates, the McCain campaign scrambled today to scratch Ralph Reed from tonight's program, but voters deserve to know the answers to the real questions raised by Reed's involvement," Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

"If the McCain campaign won't return the money Reed has raised for them, then voters should rightly ask why it matters that Reed didn't show up at tonight's event. The real question isn't why Reed isn't showing up, but why a so-called reformer would invite him at all."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last week that Reed said he had agreed to be on the Republicans' "Victory 2008 Team."

In a follow-up statement to reporters, he said he has no position in the McCain campaign.

Reed did not return telephone calls Monday seeking comment.

A Republican National Committee spokesman accused Obama's campaign of hypocrisy.

"Before the Obama campaign launches attacks, they should stop and think about the amount of money that has been raised through convicted criminal and longtime fundraiser Tony Rezko," Danny Diaz said, invoking an Obama associate who was convicted of squeezing illegal payoffs out of companies that sought to do business with the state of Illinois.

"It takes a lot of audacity for Obama and his spokespeople to criticize John McCain when Obama was involved in a questionable home purchase with Rezko's wife and years of friendship and dealings with a man convicted of wire and mail fraud, money laundering, and aiding and abetting bribery."

Obama was not implicated, charged or call to testify in the case.

Rezko has raised money for Obama's campaigns in Illinois, money Obama since has donated to charity. He also advised Obama on the purchase of a new Chicago home and, in his wife's name, bought a vacant lot next door to the Obama home when the seller wanted to unload both properties at the same time. Rezko then sold a piece of the property to Obama.

McCain adviser Mark Salter said Reed sent the messages on his own and did not coordinate with the campaign.

McCain, when he was chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, led an investigation into Abramoff's dealings with Indian tribes, which included information about his ties to Reed.

A House investigative committee in 2006 concluded that Reed interceded with the Bush White House to help some of Abramoff's clients. Reed's public relations firm also received $4.2 million from Abramoff to mobilize Christian voters to fight the opening of casinos that could compete with Abramoff's Indian tribe clients.

Reed later said he regretted the actions, which contributed to his 2006 Republican primary loss in a bid to be Georgia's lieutenant governor. Abramoff went to prison for conspiracy, mail fraud and tax evasion.

McCain's campaign noted that he endorsed Reed's rival during the primary.

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