WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Presumptive Republican presidential candidate John McCain secured millions in federal funds for a land acquisition program that provided a windfall for an Arizona developer whose executives were major campaign donors, according to a USA Today report.
McCain, an Arizona senator, inserted $14.3 million in a 2003 defense bill to buy land around Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Arizona, in a provision sought by SunCor Development, the largest of 50 landowners near the base, the newspaper reported on its Web site Thursday, citing public records.
Upset with a state law that restricted development around the base, SunCor representatives met with McCain’s staff to lobby for funding, USA Today reported, citing the company’s president at the time, John Ogden.
The Air Force later paid SunCor $3 million for 122 acres near the base — three times its assessed value and twice the military’s estimated value, the newspaper said.
USA Today said its analysis of campaign finance data compiled by the nonpartisan CQ MoneyLine shows that McCain’s campaigns have received $224,000 since 1998 from donors connected to SunCor’s parent company Pinnacle West, including $104,100 for his current presidential run.
Two current and one retired Pinnacle executives are fundraisers for McCain’s presidential campaign.
McCain has made fighting special interest projects on Capitol Hill a centerpiece of his White House bid.
McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rogers told the newspaper the senator’s ties to SunCor had nothing to do with his support for the base project.
Rogers said the Air Force had a legitimate need for the land and asked for money to buy it in a March 2002 budget planning document, USA Today reported.
Asked about the newspaper’s report, Rogers told Reuters: “This is absurd.”
“This project was requested by the Air Force and supported by virtually everyone in AZ (Arizona) politics — Governor Napolitano, the entire congressional delegation, etc. — but that’s not even mentioned in this story. It’s shameful,” Rogers said in an email.
Writing by JoAnne Allen