Lucrative Land Swap

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The trouble about running for President on your image as an anti-corruption, reformer kind of guy is that when stories surface that puncture a hole in that image, it's going to be front page news. And that's what happened to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) today in this story in the Washington Post that suggests McCain did a very lucrative favor for one of his campaign's big donors.

McCain was reluctant to sign off on a deal that would have given an Arizona rancher the opportunity to trade his land for a batch of federal property ripe for development. That is, until the rancher hired lobbyists who used to work for McCain. Once the deal went through, the rancher then hired a McCain bundler, Steven Betts to do the development on the land:


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.

In the late 1990s, McCain promoted a deal in Arizona's Tonto National Forest involving property part-owned by Great American Life Insurance, a company run by billionaire Carl H. Lindner Jr., a prolific contributor to national political parties and presidential candidates.

With the federal government owning vast stretches of Arizona land, and with pressure to meet increasing housing demands, McCain now views land swaps as beneficial, Rogers said. "He certainly recognizes that there have been well-documented abuses of legislative land exchanges, but every land exchange bill introduced by Senator McCain has been written with the highest regard for the public interest."

Oh, well OK then.