Guilt By Associations

Cross-posted at

As the 2008 campaign enters the final sprint toward the November 4th finish line, both campaigns are framing their final arguments to voters. As McCain's poll numbers in key states across the country continue to erode, we've seen his campaign tactics change. They have gone into 100 percent negative attack mode - literally 100 percent as far as I can tell - as that is currently the percentage of their ads that are negative. They are aimed at tearing down Obama personally and betting on the fact that they can raise doubts in enough swing voters minds' in key states like Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Colorado that they can tip the electorate over the next couple weeks. They are doing this through "guilt by association" politics. They don't want this final phase of the campaign to be about the economy or the other issues, that much is clear from their own strategists quotes in the press. They want it to be about Obama's relationships with people like William Ayers and Jeremiah Wright.

First, let me say that this is nothing new in politics. For as long as Presidential campaigns have been waged, both sides of always tried to accused their opponents of "sleeping with the enemy" or having connections to people who are not upstanding folks. As I'm sure many of you remember, we spent a lot of time defending Clinton against these types of attacks during the 1992 race. However, John McCain and Sarah Palin are going far further, and far nastier, with this tactic than any campaign in memory.

Our side should not let the McCain campaign drive this debate without pointing out their hypocrisy, and we should hold the traditional media accountable when they cover McCain's wild accusations without exploring any of the associations in McCain and Palin's careers. So I decided to put together a list of people with frightening beliefs and/or criminal backgrounds that McCain and Palin are tied to. My criterion is that I looked for people that are or were in fact closer to McCain or Palin than Ayers. I think we should all push to make the traditional media really dig into these relationships.

12. Pastor John Hagee. You all remember when the Pastor Hagee scandal broke a couple months ago. Since then, McCain has distanced himself from the Pastor, but it's still important to remember this relationship and to note that while Obama has also distanced himself from Rev. Wright, the McCain campaign, along with GOP operatives continue to tie the two to each other and it's expected that Wright's name will make a return to the debate during next week's debate in New York.

In February of 2008, Hagee endorsed McCain's candidacy, calling him a, "man of principle, [who] does not stand boldly on both sides of any issue." For his part, McCain said that he was "very honored by Pastor John Hagee's endorsement." Unfortunately, Hagee has a litany of statements in the public record that are not only troubling, they are downright offensive and radical. ThinkProgress has more on Hagee's past comments. For starters, Hagee once referred to Catholicism as "The Great Whore," and in talking about U.S. foreign policy he said, "The United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God's plan for both Israel and the West... a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation, and Second Coming of Christ."

McCain has denounced some of these more radical statements, but the mere fact that he actively sought Hagee's endorsement for a year means that he should be held to account for Hagee's radical views - if Wright remains on the political table, Hagee should be there right next to him.

11. Thomas Muthee. Sarah and Todd Palin have another Pastor problem. His name is Thomas Muthee and he is an evangelist and witchdoctor, who Sarah Palin has credited with helping her to win her governorship in 2006. Hannah Strange from the Times Online has more on the Muthee-Palin relationship.

At a speech at the Wasilla Assembly of God on June 8 this year, Mrs Palin described how Thomas Muthee had laid his hands on her when he visited the church as a guest preacher in late 2005, prior to her successful gubernatorial bid.

In video footage of the speech, she is seen saying: "As I was mayor and Pastor Muthee was here and he was praying over me, and you know how he speaks and he's so bold. And he was praying "Lord make a way, Lord make a way."

"And I'm thinking, this guy's really bold, he doesn't even know what I'm going to do, he doesn't know what my plans are. And he's praying not "oh Lord if it be your will may she become governor," no, he just prayed for it. He said "Lord make a way and let her do this next step. And that's exactly what happened."

Just like the Wright sermons, there are tons of YouTube clips that highlight this guy's sermons. The Palins' association with this guy really brings into question some serious issues - for example -does she believe that Muthee's spiritual hand helped seal her election in Alaska? Had this guy preached in front of Obama or his congregation, can you imagine what the outrage from the Right would be? Moreover, Muthee has made anti Catholic statements. He was once quoted as saying, "Brazil is occupied by Catholics... but people are being saved anyway!"

10. Mustafa Abu Naba'a. A while back, McCain also had another fundraising scandal involving one of his big bundlers from Florida, who also has close ties to Gov. Charlie Crist. This man is Mustafa Abu Naba'a, who is a dual citizen of Jordan and the Dominican Republic. He was tasked with collecting checks for McCain bundler Harry Sargeant III. His contribution to McCain was returned because the donations were solicited by a foreign national and may have been collected in violation of federal election laws. Matthew Mosk of the Washington Post has more on this fundraising scandal and it's implications - needless to say, this bundler wasn't doing things above-board and the fallout should be scrutinized - this is not the kind of person a presidential campaign or a potential President of the United States wants to have hanging around.

9. Ali Jawad. As the McCain campaign and RNC research team comb through the Obama campaigns donation history looking for ties to foreign donors and those presumably with Arab sounding names trying to draw some connection, it's important to remember that John McCain has had some issues in the recent past receiving donations from shady people that he later had to return.

One of those people was Ali Jawad, a member of McCain's Michigan Finance Committee. Jawad is president of Armada Oil & Gas Company and founder of the Lebanese American Heritage Club. According to Jake Tapper at ABC News:

In this 2002 story, Jawad is quoted saying he "rejects talk that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization that should be shunned by the United States and other governments. 'Killing innocent people -- we reject that,' he said. 'Hezbollah does not fit this category. It has protected its people."

The article goes on to say:

In 1997 he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor insurance fraud. Prosecutors accused him of submitting names of non-employees to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to receive health insurance benefits and claims. He received two years of probation and he paid approximately $6,000 in fines and restitution.

8. Oliver North, John Singlaub and U.S. Council for World Freedom. A couple days ago, the Associated Press detailed the relationship between John McCain and The U.S. Council for World Freedom. AP:

The U.S. Council for World Freedom aided rebels trying to overthrow the leftist government of Nicaragua. That landed the group in the middle of the Iran-Contra affair and in legal trouble with the Internal Revenue Service, which revoked the charitable organization's tax exemption.

The council created by retired Army Maj. Gen. John Singlaub was the U.S. chapter of the World Anti-Communist League, an international organization linked to former Nazi collaborators and ultra-right-wing death squads in Central America. After setting up the U.S. council, Singlaub served as the international league's chairman.

What's more?

In two interviews with The Associated Press in August and September, Singlaub said McCain became associated with the organization in the early 1980s as McCain launched his political career. McCain was elected to the U.S. House in 1982.

Launched his political career? Sound familiar?

The Council was notorious for its affiliation with white supremacists, etc. Also, remember that Oliver North played a large role during the Iran-Contra and was convicted in 1989 of shredding documents, accepting an illegal gratuity, and aiding and abetting in the obstruction of Congress. On February 12, 2008, the McCain campaign circulated a column that North wrote in the Washington Times touting, "extolling the senator's virtues, under the heading "In Case You Missed It: Oliver North on John McCain."

Sam Stein at the Huffington Post has a great piece about McCain's connections with the U.S. Council for World Freedom. You can read it here.

7. Charles Keating. For many younger voters, the name Charles Keating might not have meant anything until early this week. However, for those of us who have been around for a while and have been deeply involved in politics, the Keating Five Scandal is still very much in our memories. This week, the Obama campaign hit McCain hard on the Keating issue - producing a 13-minute documentary on the scandal and tying McCain's actions back then to the crisis we face today in our economy. They hit him on judgment and they want to re-introduce Charles Keating to the American people, and rightly so. Keating was a close friend of the McCain's. McCain and his family vacationed with Keating, on Keating's buck and the favors that McCain helped to curry for Keating during the 1980's helped to bring about the fall of the Savings and Loan industry, one of the largest economic calamities of the 20th century. Just this past week, ThinkProgress dug up a letter correspondence between McCain and Keating - which punctuates their friendship and loyalty.

The Washington Times reports that in 1986, John McCain wrote a note on House stationery to Charles Keating, chairman of a failed savings and loan association who went to prison in the late 1980s. In the letter, McCain apologized for listing Keating as part of his Senate campaign finance committee. Keating wrote in response: "You can call me anything, write anything or do anything. I'm yours till death do us part."

If public service is about watching who you keep as company, then Charles Keating is still very much on the table. For years since the scandal, McCain has written and talked about how the Keating Five Scandal changed his life and how he would be forever transformed by the incident. However, in a conference call with reporters last week, John Dowd, the lawyer who represented McCain during the Senate Ethics Committee investigation spoke of the investigation as a "classic political smear job" and professed that "John had not done anything wrong." This alone re-opens the entire incident and the press should now be asking John McCain if he too believes the investigation was a "smear job" and that he had "done nothing wrong." Keating is a classic example of the company you keep coming back to haunt you.

6. G. Gordon Liddy. Liddy has been a name in national politics for many years. However, many piece of his biography have been forgotten. If a candidate for President of the United States is presumed guilty for the company that he keeps, then McCain's relationship, both financial and personal, with G. Gordon Liddy is very troublesome. Oliver Willis has more in a recent Media Matters report that lays out this relationship:

As Media Matters for America has noted, Liddy served four and a half years in prison in connection with his conviction for his role in the Watergate break-in and the break-in at the office of the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg, the military analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers. Liddy has acknowledged preparing to kill someone during the Ellsberg break-in "if necessary"; plotting to murder journalist Jack Anderson; plotting with a "gangland figure" to murder Howard Hunt to stop him from cooperating with investigators; plotting to firebomb the Brookings Institution; and plotting to kidnap "leftist guerillas" at the 1972 Republican National Convention -- a plan he outlined to the Nixon administration using terminology borrowed from the Nazis. (The murder, firebombing, and kidnapping plots were never carried out; the break-ins were.) During the 1990s, Liddy reportedly instructed his radio audience on multiple occasions on how to shoot Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents and also reportedly said he had named his shooting targets after Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Liddy has donated $5,000 to McCain's campaigns since 1998, including $1,000 in February 2008. In addition, McCain has appeared on Liddy's radio show during the presidential campaign, including as recently as May. An online video labeled "John McCain On The G. Gordon Liddy Show 11/8/07? includes a discussion between Liddy and McCain, whom Liddy described as an "old friend." During the segment, McCain praised Liddy's "adherence to the principles and philosophies that keep our nation great," said he was "proud" of Liddy, and said that "it's always a pleasure for me to come on your program."

5. Kemper Marley. Kemper Marley was a wealthy liquor distributor and Arizona rancher who had close ties to the Hensley family, namely Cindy McCain's father. He was long suspected of being involved in the bombing and murder of Don Bolles, an investigative reporter for The Arizona Republic who specialized in crime reporting. According to Marley's 1990 obituary in the New York Times, "John Harvey Adamson, the only person whose conviction in the slaying has been upheld, said in court documents that he had been hired by Max Dunlap, a wealthy contractor who had been reared by Mr. Marley, to kill Mr. Bolles for writing articles damaging to Mr. Marley."

A Phoenix-area newspaper did a story during McCain's 2000 Presidential bid about the Hensley family history and their associations with shady characters. According to the Phoenix News Times, "The Hensley saga, meanwhile, swirls with bygone accounts of illicit booze, gambling, horse racing, deceit and crime. James Hensley embarked on his road to riches as a bootlegger."

Kemper's money, along with the Hensley family, helped John McCain get where he is today. It's important that questions are asked about McCain's knowledge of Kemper Marley and what involvement and impact he had on McCain's early political career.

4. Don Diamond. Then, there is Don Diamond. In April, 2008, the New York Times did a detailed story on Diamond's relationship with McCain and the favors that McCain curried for Diamond, who wanted to develop land in California on the site of a closed Army base.. In their lede, they write, "For Mr. McCain, the Arizona Republican who has staked two presidential campaigns on pledges to avoid even the appearance of dispensing an official favor for a donor, Mr. Diamond is the kind of friend who can pose a test."

Here's more from the Times:

Donald R. Diamond, a wealthy Arizona real estate developer, was racing to snap up a stretch of virgin California coast freed by the closing of an Army base a decade ago when he turned to an old friend, Senator John McCain.

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. When he appealed to a nearby city for the right to develop other property at the former base, Mr. Diamond submitted Mr. McCain's endorsement as "a close personal friend."

Writing to officials in the city, Seaside, Calif., the senator said, "You will find him as honorable and committed as I have."

Courting local officials and potential partners, Mr. Diamond's team promised that he could "help get through some of the red tape in dealing with the Department of the Army" because Mr. Diamond "has been very active with Senator McCain," a partner said in a deposition.

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. At home, Mr. Diamond is sometimes referred to as "The Donald," Arizona's answer to Donald Trump -- an outsized personality who invites public officials aboard his flotilla of yachts (the Ace, King, Jack and Queen of Diamonds), specializes in deals with the government, and unabashedly solicits support for his business interests from the recipients of his campaign contributions.

3. Marylin Shannon. Over the past couple days you've heard the line about Obama "palling around with terrorists" come out of Sarah Palin's mouth on numerous occasions and with relative ease. Well, it's important to note that John McCain's friend, Marilyn Shannon, a Republican official from Oregon, once praised a woman who was convicted of attempted murder in the shooting of an abortion clinic doctor. According to Raw Story:

McCain and Shannon appeared together at a fundraiser for the Oregon Citizens Alliance in 1993, a gathering of Christian right extremists that even fellow Republicans advised McCain not to attend because the group was so far outside the mainstream.

Speaking before McCain, Shannon offered some kind words for Shelley Shannon, who was accused and later convicted of shooting an abortion doctor: "I'm not related to Shelly Shannon, but I think she's a fine lady," the vice chairwoman of the state Republican Party said. McCain apparently said nothing to contradict that judgment, and less than three months later he voted against a bill that would make abortion clinic bombings a federal crime.

Author and journalist Frederick Clarkson has written extensively about the Army of God, the radical Christian organization that trained Shelley Shannon and others like her to bomb abortion clinics and attack abortion providers. He provides some more details on Shannon. She was eventually convicted of the attempted murder of a Wichita, Kan., doctor and of committing a spree of abortion clinic arsons across the west.

Keep in mind that Shannon was a delegate for McCain to this year's Republican National Convention in Saint Paul. The McCain campaign showed no oversight in allowing her to attend. Moreover, as ThinkProgress points out - when asked by the CBS Early Show to respond to an article where accusations were made that McCain had palled around with someone who held these radical and dangerous views, McCain-Palin campaign spokesperson Nancy Pfotenhauer said, "The article also concluded is that if Senator McCain had hung out with somebody who had bombed abortion clinics, no one would consider [raising the issue] illegitimate.

So, what Pfotenhauer is saying is that this issue is legitimate and that McCain should have to respond. Let's see if he does.

2. Alaska Independence Party - Joe Vogler, Mark Chryson and Steve Stoll. As the GOP continues to parse and amplify the words of Jeremiah Wright, mind you, not his words on peace and spiritual matters, but rather the passages where he was critical of America on racial and foreign policy issues, it's important that we make sure Americans know about Joe Vogler, the founder of AIP. In some cases, his words are nearly identical to Rev. Wright's, and in many cases they are worse. Vogler has been quoted as saying, "the fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government" and "I won't be buried under their damn flag..."I'll be buried in Dawson. And when Alaska is an independent nation they can bring my bones home." Vogler even went so far as to renounce his allegiance to the United States, which is far more extreme than anything that came out of Rev. Wright's mouth. In the course of denouncing Federal regulation over land, he said, "And then you get mad. And you say, the hell with them. And you renounce allegiance, and you pledge your efforts, your effects, your honor, your life to Alaska." TPM has a great piece with all of these quotes, along with audio of Vogler's interview.

There's also Mark Chryson and Steve Stoll, both AIP members and close political associates of Sarah Palin. Here's Salon's write-up on these two and their association with Palin's run for Mayor of Wasilla.

Though Chryson belongs to a fringe political party, one that advocates the secession of Alaska from the Union, and that organizes with other like-minded secessionist movements from Canada to the Deep South, he is not without peculiar influence in state politics, especially the rise of Sarah Palin. An obscure figure outside of Alaska, Chryson has been a political fixture in the hometown of the Republican vice-presidential nominee for over a decade. During the 1990s, when Chryson directed the AIP, he and another radical right-winger, Steve Stoll, played a quiet but pivotal role in electing Palin as mayor of Wasilla and shaping her political agenda afterward. Both Stoll and Chryson not only contributed to Palin's campaign financially, they played major behind-the-scenes roles in the Palin camp before, during and after her victory. Palin backed Chryson as he successfully advanced a host of anti-tax, pro-gun initiatives, including one that altered the state Constitution's language to better facilitate the formation of anti-government militias. She joined in their vendetta against several local officials they disliked, and listened to their advice about hiring.

The Salon piece that I quote from above has some really ripe, detailed information on the AIP, as well as its more shady members. Palin has not renounced these men or to the best of my knowledge, even addressed their associations with them.

1. Todd Palin. The "first dude" has gotten pretty much a free ride from the traditional press over the past six weeks. He's done a couple softball interviews on FOX News and has pretty much sat in the background as his wife has been introduced on the national stage. Not much attention has been paid to the fact that Todd Palin was a member, for eight years, of the Alaska Independence Party, a radical group that advocates for Alaskan secession from the United States of America and is linked with radical secessionist groups, militias, and white supremacists groups from all over the country. We don't know the full extent of Todd Palin's beliefs when it comes to AIP and their radical views, but the problem is - no one is really asking. As Ambinder puts it in a post he did on October 4:

Todd Palin, a former member of the Alaska Independence Party, might well have seen America unlike his wife did -- that is, an America that one can secede from. He was comfortable belonging to and being associated with a political party whose founder seemed to delight in denouncing the principles that hold our union together.

If there is even a remote chance that this guy is going to be living in the Vice President's house or White House for the next 4 or 8 years, we deserve to know the truth about his radical views of America, especially given how much Gov. Palin has clearly relied on him for policy-making help while Governor of Alaska.

Over John McCain's long political career, he has made many "friends." It's evident in the short time that the country has known Sarah and Todd Palin that they also had a bunch of friends - all who should be causing trouble for them in the closing weeks of this campaign. If the McCain-Palin ticket wants to constantly remind voters about Obama's "friends," it's imperative that we do the same.

I offer this list to reporters, bloggers and muckrakers of all kinds. To be fair in this campaign, if we're going to be hearing a lot about Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright, we should be hearing about all of these people as well. In fact, all of them are far closer to McCain or Palin than Ayers ever was to Obama. And while Obama has denounced the actions of Ayers and the words or Wright, most of the people on this list have never been denounced by John McCain or Sarah Palin. As McCain and company go more and more negative and trumpet Obama's past associations, it's important that we push these stories and make sure the American people know that this "guilt by associations" politics cuts both ways.