Sun-Times reported McCain's criticism of "land swaps" that benefit "wealthy developers," but not that he's reportedly facilitated them

››› ››› RYAN CHIACHIERE

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Sen. John McCain spoke out against "land swaps, worthless land for valuable land" in connection with the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics and that "McCain is still a watchdog when it comes to federal spending, but he is a supporter of Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympics, said his spokesman, Tucker Bounds." But the article did not note that McCain has himself reportedly facilitated land-swap deals that benefited wealthy developers who were major McCain donors.

In a June 8 Chicago Sun-Times article, headlined "McCain backs Olympic bid, but watch spending," political reporter Abdon M. Pallasch reported that Sen. John McCain spoke out against "land swaps, worthless land for valuable land" in connection with the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Pallasch also reported: "McCain is still a watchdog when it comes to federal spending, but he is a supporter of Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympics, said his spokesman, Tucker Bounds." But Pallasch did not note that McCain has himself reportedly facilitated land-swap deals that benefited wealthy developers who were major McCain donors.

Pallasch reported that McCain said, "The American taxpayer is being shaken down to the tune of nearly a billion and a half dollars. ... I am all for whatever expenditure for security for the Salt Lake City Olympics [but] a good part of this $1.5 billion -- and there is more in the appropriations bill -- has nothing to do with security. It has to do with road building. It has to do with land swaps, worthless land for valuable land. It has to do with wealthy developers. It has to do with the enrichment of billionaires." However, in a May 9 article headlined "McCain Pushed Land Swap That Benefits Backer," The Washington Post reported that McCain "championed legislation that will let an Arizona rancher trade remote grassland and ponderosa pine forest here for acres of valuable federally owned property that is ready for development, a land swap that now stands to directly benefit one of his top presidential campaign fundraisers." The Post continued:

Initially reluctant to support the swap, the Arizona Republican became a key figure in pushing the deal through Congress after the rancher and his partners hired lobbyists that included McCain's 1992 Senate campaign manager, two of his former Senate staff members (one of whom has returned as his chief of staff), and an Arizona insider who was a major McCain donor and is now bundling campaign checks.

When McCain's legislation passed in November 2005, the ranch owner gave the job of building as many as 12,000 homes to SunCor Development, a firm in Tempe, Ariz., run by Steven A. Betts, a longtime McCain supporter who has raised more than $100,000 for the presumptive Republican nominee. Betts said he and McCain never discussed the deal.

The Post also reported that "opponents were baffled by [McCain's] seemingly contradictory positions" on the legislation, and quoted Janine Blaeloch, founder and director of the Western Lands Project, asserting, "The bizarre thing to me regarding McCain is, we spent a lot of time with his staff, and we all seemed to be on the same page about the problems with this swap. But somehow, John McCain kept pushing it forward."

Additionally, the Post stated:

Betts is among a string of donors who have benefited from McCain-engineered land swaps. In 1994, the senator helped a lobbyist for land developer Del Webb Corp. pursue an exchange in the Las Vegas area, according to the Center for Public Integrity. McCain sponsored two bills, in 1991 and 1994, sought by donor Donald R. Diamond that yielded the developer thousands of acres in trade for national parkland.

On April 22, The New York Times reported on Diamond in an article headlined "A Developer, His Deals and His Ties to McCain." That article reported on the 1991 and 1994 land swap legislation as well:

In Arizona, Mr. McCain has helped Mr. Diamond with matters as small as forwarding a complaint in a regulatory skirmish over the endangered pygmy owl, and as large as introducing legislation remapping public lands. In 1991 and 1994, Mr. McCain sponsored two laws sought by Mr. Diamond that resulted in providing him millions of dollars and thousands of acres in exchange for adding some of his properties to national parks. The Arizona senator co-sponsored a third similar bill now before the Senate.

The article described Diamond as "one of the elite fund-raisers Mr. McCain's current presidential campaign calls Innovators, having raised more than $250,000 so far."

From the June 8 Chicago Sun-Times article:

McCain tangled with the United States Olympics Committee and gained a reputation as an Olympics skeptic when he launched an investigation of federal spending on the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

"The American taxpayer is being shaken down to the tune of nearly a billion and a half dollars," McCain said in 2002, launching a Senate investigation of federal spending on those games. "I am all for whatever expenditure for security for the Salt Lake City Olympics [but] a good part of this $1.5 billion -- and there is more in the appropriations bill -- has nothing to do with security. It has to do with road building. It has to do with land swaps, worthless land for valuable land. It has to do with wealthy developers. It has to do with the enrichment of billionaires."

McCain is still a watchdog when it comes to federal spending, but he is a supporter of Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympics, said his spokesman, Tucker Bounds.

Network/Outlet
Chicago Sun-Times
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.