John McCain’s Democracy in America - The few, the wealthy, the well-connected

With the Pennsylvania primary too close to call, the

New York Times

focuses our attention on the otherwise unnoticed John McCain.

Once again, the Times is implicitly questioning Senator McCain’s bona fides as a political reformer. Supposedly after his near-death ethics experience in the “Keating five” Savings and Loan scandal , the Senator has been careful to avoid according special privileges to the well-heeled.  There seem to have been exceptions, however, including a notable one for well-heeled “friend” who has also arranged for donations to Senator McCain’s presidential campaign in excess of $250,000.

Today’s profile by David Kirkpatrick and Jim Rutenberg of wealthy Arizona real estate developer Donald R. Diamond reveals that Senator McCain has been pivotal to Mr. Diamond’s real estate success, much of it achieved by exchanging properties with the United States on very favorable terms. 

It appears Senator McCain helped Mr. Diamond acquire, among other properties, Fort Ord, the former military base in the extraordinarily beautiful Monterey California.  When the deal ran into trouble, Senator McCain assigned an aide who facilitated matters with the Pentagon and sped things up.  Mr. Diamond described by Senator McCain as “a close personal friend” was of course grateful – well, to a point. 

Referring to the help he received from Senator McCain and about which he bragged to local officials would allow them to “get through some of the red tape in dealing with the Army,” Mr. Diamond felt more or less entitled.  In a startling, yet revealing, comment Mr. Diamond contended  “I think that is what Congress people are supposed to do for constituents. When you have a big, significant businessman like myself, why wouldn’t you want to help move things along?  What else would they do?  They waste so much time with legislation.”

In the various endorsements of Mr. Diamond used to intervene with other government officials, John McCain calls his friend – and it would seem modern-day commentator on American democracy – “a citizen’s, citizen” – yeah, he’s a veritable Alexis de Tocqueville. 

So here’s hoping that Pennsylvania will not be afraid to nominate someone for president of the United States who at least promises with some plausibility to roil the existing order that passes itself off as congressional ethics.