McCain Faces Conflict-of-Interest Flap


Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is catching heat for allegedly helping Cablevision Systems Corp. after the MSO donated money to tax-exempt group The Reform Institute, AP reported.

Cablevision made two separate donations of $100,000 apiece to The Reform Institute, which touts McCain's views and has showcased him at events since his unsuccessful 2000 presidential campaign, according to AP.

Around the time of those donations, McCain allowed Cablevision CEO James Dolan to testify before his Senate committee, wrote a letter of support to the Federal Communication Commission and asked other cable operators to support a la carte pricing, which Cablevision is in favor of, AP reported.

According to AP, Cablevision's donations accounted for 15% of The Reform Institute’s fund-raising in 2003, tax records showed.

McCain told AP he saw nothing wrong with the group raising money from the cable operator because the donations didn't go toward his re-election campaign. He added -- and documents provided to AP by his office showed -- that he expressed interest in a la carte pricing since at least 1998, well before Cablevision came out in favor of it.

“If it was a [political-action committee] or if it was somehow connected to any campaign of mine, I would say to you, ‘That's a legitimate appearance of conflict of interest.’ But it's not,” McCain told AP. “There's not a conflict of interest when you're involved in an organization that is nonpartisan, nonprofit, nonpolitical.”

And McCain's chief political adviser, Rick Davis, told AP the senator had nothing to do with soliciting Cablevision's money, adding, “I think John McCain avoids the appearance of impropriety with not being involved in any way with the solicitation of any of these funds.”

“Our experience has been that Sen. McCain makes up his own mind on every issue,” Cablevision spokesman Charlie Schueler told AP. “Over the years, he has disagreed with some of our positions, agreed with others and been indifferent to most.”