Saturday, May 17, 2008

MCCAIN GOT SWEETHEART DEAL FOR BIG BACKER

ARIZONA CENTRAL Sen. John McCain secured millions in federal funds for a land acquisition program that provided a windfall for an Arizona developer whose executives were major campaign donors, public records show. McCain, who has made fighting special-interest projects a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, inserted $14.3 million in a 2003 defense bill to buy land around Luke Air Force Base in a provision sought by SunCor Development, the largest of about 50 landowners near the base. SunCor representatives, upset with a state law that restricted development around Luke, met with McCain's staff to lobby for funding, according to John Ogden, SunCor's president at the time.

The Air Force later paid SunCor $3 million for 122 acres near the base. It was the highest single land transaction of the private lots purchased by the government - three times the county's assessed value and twice the military's estimated value. SunCor also donated another 122 acres. Alan Bunnell, a spokesman for SunCor's parent company, Pinnacle West Capital, said the donation was meant to minimize the company's tax bill and enhance the value of adjacent property it owns.. . .

McCain's campaigns have received $224,000 since 1998 from donors connected to Pinnacle West, including $104,100 for his current presidential run, according to a USA Today analysis of campaign-finance data compiled by the non-partisan CQ MoneyLine. Donors include employees of Pinnacle West and its subsidiaries, employees' spouses and the company's lobbyists and political committees.

Pinnacle West's Chief Executive Officer Bill Post, vice president and lobbyist Robert Aiken and former president Jack Davis, who retired in March, are fundraisers for McCain's current presidential campaign. SunCor President Steve Betts, who joined the company weeks after the military land deal, is a former campaign lawyer for McCain and has raised more than $100,000 for his current campaign.

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