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As he launched his first presidential run in 2000, John McCain said of the Keating Five scandal that nearly ended his career, "it was the wrong thing to do, and it will be on my tombstone and deservedly so."  But on the eve of his final bid for the White House, McCain is still being buffeted by new revelations from his involvement with the convicted S&L villain in the late 1980's.

As it turns out, his wife Cindy continued her business relationship with Keating for 13 years.  This year, McCain himself accepted over $50,000 from the law firm Keating founded.  And as a New Republic investigation detailed this weekend, John McCain's leaks and likely false testimony during the Keating Five ethics inquiry could have gotten him expelled from the Senate - or worse.

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As Huffington Post reported last week, McCain has apparently gone back to the Keating well in funding his presidential campaign.  Two decades after pocketing $112,000 in campaign donations from Keating and his Lincoln Financial associates, the supposed maverick this July took in $51,400 from a law firm founded by his one-time political sugar daddy:

On July 31, 2008, campaign finance records show that McCain accepted more than $50,000 in contributions from 41 partners of the Cincinnati law firm Keating Muething & Klekamp. As the name suggests, the firm was founded by Charles Keating. Among the partners who contributed was none other than Keating's nephew, William J. Keating, Jr.
While McCain's ties to a Keating-connected bundler is unseemly, far more disturbing is wife Cindy's long term - and extremely profitable - business partnership with felon Charles Keating himself.

In October 1989, Senator McCain exploded at reporters from the Arizona Republic who questioned him about Mrs. McCain's business relationship with Keating and his American Continental Corporation.  (In his tirade, McCain called a reporter "a liar" and an "idiot.")  But as the Washington Independent recently revealed, Cindy McCain continued her lucrative partnership with Keating long after her husband severed ties with him:

Sen. John McCain's wife and father-in-law continued a lucrative business partnership with disgraced financier Charles H. Keating Jr. for 11 years after the GOP presidential nominee said he ended his close friendship with Keating in March 1987.

Cindy McCain's business partnership with Keating in a real-estate development between 1986 and 1998 netted her a tidy profit, in addition to years of significant tax benefits. Her father, who died in 2000, earned similar returns.

As the Independent noted, "McCain's campaign and his Senate office did not respond to repeated phone calls and emails concerning Cindy McCain's investment with Keating."  No doubt, Team McCain was even less willing to speak with the New Republic.

In a devastating examination this weekend, TNR revealed that John McCain's Keating offenses were much more extensive - and his potential penalties far more severe - than previously reported.  While McCain was ultimately reprimanded for "poor judgment" by a Senate ethics committee probing the scandal, his purported leaks and probably lies under oath about them could have gotten him kicked out of the Senate and into a jail cell:

Yet the Ethics Committee's was not the only investigation into the scandal. There were two other probes at the time that got barely any public attention--both of which largely focused on McCain himself. These were probes into illicit leaks about the proceedings of the Ethics Committee--leaks that repeatedly benefited McCain and hurt his Keating Five colleagues. One of those senators described the leaks at the time as a "violation of ethical behavior at least as serious as anything of which we senators have been accused."

The leaks, if they were coming from a senator, were also illegal. All five senators--including McCain--had testified under oath and under the U.S. penal code that the leaks did not come from their camps. The leaks were also prohibited by rules of the Senate Ethics Committee; according to the rules of the Senate, anyone caught leaking such information could face expulsion from the body. These, then, were not the usual Washington disclosures: Discovered, they could have stopped the career of any Washington politician in his tracks.

The two investigations into the leaks suggested McCain's involvement but were officially inconclusive. New evidence, obtained in recent weeks, again points back to the McCain camp. The investigator of those leaks now says that he does not doubt that they came from McCain or his team. A reporter who possessed evidence in the Keating case now says he believes that McCain was the source and got away with it. Finally, a senator who has emerged as a key backer of McCain's presidential campaign turns out to have authored a letter stating flatly that McCain was the source of the damning leaks. Put together, a large record of evidence now points in the direction of Senator McCain. Far from McCain's reputation of putting "country first," these leaks depict a formidable politician willing to go through great lengths to maintain his standing. More than McCain's relationship with Keating, it is the story of the Keating investigation leaks that voters should know.

Fast forward to 2008 and John McCain apparently still hasn't learned his Keating Five lesson.  As the McClatchy papers documented a week ago in a piece titled, "McCain Pushed Regulators for Land Swap, Despite Pledge," Mr. Straight Talk repeated his pattern of helping his political benefactors:
Years after he resurrected his political fortunes from the Keating Five savings and loan investigation, John McCain promoted an Arizona land swap that would've benefited a former mentor and partner of the scandal's central figure.

The owners of the Spur Cross Ranch, a dramatic 2,154-acre tract of Sonoran desert just north of Phoenix, in the late 1990s sought to sell it to a developer who planned to build a premier golf course surrounded by 390 luxury homes...

...After opposition surfaced, the developer sought McCain's help in forging a land swap with the U.S. Forest Service - a deal that also would benefit the owners of the ranch, including a company controlled by billionaire Carl H. Lindner Jr., an associate of S&L chief Charles H. Keating.

Tomorrow, American voters will finally go to the polls.  Hopefully, they will deny John McCain the one epitaph he has long sought: President of the United States.  But should his elevation to the White House not come to pass, McCain can always reflect on the fond wishes express in a letter his good friend Charles Keating sent him in 1986:
"You can call me anything, write anything or do anything. I'm yours till death do us part."
* Crossposted at Perrspectives *
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Originally posted to Jon Perr on Mon Nov 03, 2008 at 09:10 AM PST.

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