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McCain Comes Under Scrutiny For His Fundraising Practices

By Karen Hosler

Sen. John McCain’s reformist presidential campaign for the White House met head-on Thursday night with what appears to be a glaring contradiction.

The Republican insurgent, who pledges to “break the Washington iron triangle of big money, lobbyists and legislation,” collected big money here at a fund-raiser organized by lobbyists with business interests that McCain (R-Arizona), as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, is in a position to influence.

Because that committee handles legislation that affects roughly 80 percent of the business community, it might be observed that McCain is positioned at the center of that iron triangle.

Gov. George W. Bush of Texas, who is locked in a bruising battle with McCain for the Republican nomination, has pointed to McCain’s close ties with some lobbyists as evidence that the senator’s promises of reform are just “Washington double-talk.”

In his defense, McCain argues that, for one thing, it is easier for someone like him who understands the system to change it. He adds that anyone who donates to his campaign knows his goal is to break the grip of big money over decision-making in Washington.

“I welcome the support of anyone in the form of thousand-dollar contributions,” McCain said in a TV interview, referring to the maximum legal donation by an individual and also the top ticket price to Thursday’s event. “But they know clearly where I stand. A lot of these people that are going to be contributing, they’re tired of this system, too.”

Still, McCain seemed to display some sensitivity to the charge of hypocrisy by canceling plans to attend the Washington event in person after the Bush attacks had started. And his campaign stressed that the fund-raiser was just one of 18 campaign events throughout the nation that McCain addressed Thursday night via satellite before moving to the Web to chat with supporters online.

Even so, McCain’s Washington fund-raiser -- organized by a 46-member “Victory Committee” -- is as a classic product of the very system he vows to smash.