Corruption, a Chevy and McCain

Yes, a champion of campaign finance reform, indeed.

Alice Rocchio is an office manager at the New York headquarters of the Hess Corp., drives a 1993 Chevy Cavalier and lives in an apartment in Queens, N.Y., with her husband, Pasquale, an Amtrak foreman.

Despite what appears to be a middle-class lifestyle, the couple has written $61,600 in checks to John McCain’s presidential campaign and the Republican National Committee, most of it within days of McCain’s decision to endorse offshore oil drilling.

At a June fundraiser, the Rocchios joined top executives at Hess Corp. — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Hess, his wife, Susan, his mother, Norma Hess, and six other officials in giving a total of $313,500 to a joint McCain-RNC fundraising committee, Federal Election Commission records show.

The donations, first traced by Campaign Money Watch last week, were part of $1.2 million in oil industry contributions to McCain’s Victory ’08 Committee, 73 percent coming after McCain reversed his long-held opposition to offshore oil drilling.

[From McClatchy Washington Bureau | 08/06/2008 | Did New York couple give $61,600 to McCain, GOP?]

Even though this couple just bought (in Feb, 2008) a 1993 Chevy (estimated to be around $3,000, if in good shape), they could afford to donate $61,600 to McCain and the RNC. Hmmmm, smells a little fishy to me.

Of the $57,000 the Rocchios donated in June, $4,600 went to McCain’s general election “compliance committee,” to pay for campaign lawyers and auditors, and $52,400 went to the RNC, which devotes nearly all of its money to supporting McCain’s presidential bid

The Washington Post has more on the same topic:

The bundle of $2,300 and $4,600 checks that poured into Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign on March 12 came from an unlikely group of California donors: a mechanic from D&D Auto Repair in Whittier, the manager of Rite Aid Pharmacy No. 5727, the 30-something owners of the Twilight Hookah Lounge in Fullerton.

[From Bundler Collects From Unlikely Donors –]

The bundler in this territory is Harry Sargeant III, owner of an oil-trading corporation that recently procured a $1,000,000,000 Defense Department contract. Unrelated, I am sure.

Some of the most prolific givers in Sargeant’s network live in modest homes in Southern California’s Inland Empire. Most had never given a political contribution before being contacted by Sargeant or his associates. Most said they have never voiced much interest in politics. And in several instances, they had never registered to vote. And yet, records show, some families have ponied up as much as $18,400 for various candidates between December and March.

Both Sargeant and the donors were vague when asked to explain how Sargeant persuaded them to give away so much money.

“I have a lot of Arab business partners. I do a lot of business in the Middle East. I’ve got a lot of friends,” Sargeant said in a telephone interview yesterday. “I ask my friends to support candidates that I think are worthy of supporting. They usually come through for me.”

Sargeant’s business relationships, and the work they perform together, occur away from the public eye. His firm, International Oil Trading Co. (IOTC), holds several lucrative contracts with the Defense Department to carry fuel to the U.S. military in Iraq.

Not everyone is a fan:

The work has not been without controversy. Last month, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) initiated a review of IOTC’s contract to determine whether it was overcharging the military for jet fuel, and to learn how the company, which did not submit the lowest bid, landed the contract to supply the fuel. The Pentagon has said that IOTC won the contract because it was the only company with a “letter of authorization” from the Jordanian government to move the fuel across its territory to Iraq.

and the folks who contributed seem a little removed from the political process. For instance:

Ibrahim Marabeh, who is listed in public records as a Rite Aid manager, at first denied that he wrote any political checks. He then said he was asked by “a local person. But I would like not to talk about it anymore.” Neither he nor his wife is registered to vote


At the Twilight Hookah Lounge, owned by Nadia and Shawn Abdalla, patrons smoke tobacco flavored with honey and fruit from a menu that includes the strawberry-flavored Sex on the Beach and the strong, orange-flavored Fuzzy Navel.

The Abdallas, who are not registered to vote, said in an interview that they recalled writing a check to an organization in Miami, because a person with that organization was a friend of their mother’s. They said they could not remember his name.

or a Taco Bell supervisor:

Nader, 39, and Sahar Alhawash, 28, of Colton, Calif, who at one point ran the Avon Village Liquor store, donated a total of $18,400 to Giuliani, Clinton and McCain between December and March. About 80 people in the country made such large contributions to all three, and most were wealthy business executives, such as Donald Trump. The Alhawashes declined to comment about the donations. Abdullah Abdullah, a supervisor at several Taco Bell restaurants in the Riverside area, and his wife have donated $9,200 to McCain.

Reached at work, Abdullah said he knows little about the campaign. “I have no idea. I’ll be honest with you,” he said. “I’m involved in the restaurant business. My brother Faisal recommended John McCain. Whenever he makes a recommendation, we do it.”

Faisal Abdullah, 49, said he helped organize all of the contributions from members of his family. When he was asked who solicited the contributions from him, he said: “Why does it matter who? I’m telling you we made the contribution. We funneled it through the channel in Florida because that’s the contact we had. I was responsible for collecting it.”

Right, these people have so much extra cash laying around that they can afford to contribute the maximum amount to political candidates whose name they barely can remember. I’d speculate there is some money laundering going on. How much does the contributor keep? Ten percent? Twenty percent?

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