Opinion: John McCain, Republican Party are reviewing curious donations

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John McCain moved Thursday to return about $50,000 in donations raised by a defense contractor who has amassed $500,000 for his presidential campaign.

McCain’s campaign has been stung by news accounts raising questions about some donations. The campaign sent letters to donors whose contributions were solicited by Florida businessman Harry Sargeant III and his business partner Mustafa Abu-Naba’a, a Jordanian native.

‘We’re going to take the precautionary step of returning the contributions solicited by Mr. Abu-Naba’a,’ McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said, noting that one of the donors was quoted as saying he gave the money but would not vote for McCain. ‘It just didn’t sit right.’


Republican National Committee spokesman Alex Conant said the RNC also would review Sargeant’s donations.

Sargeant raised several hundred thousand dollars for McCain, the Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Florida this year. He is finance chairman of the Florida state GOP, and has been a major donor to Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a college friend and one of McCain’s frequently mentioned vice presidential prospects.

The letter to the donors came after the Washington Post and other publications raised doubts about roughly $50,000 in contributions from about 13 California contributors, who are of Middle Eastern extraction.

The letters remind the donors of the law: only U.S. citizens can donate, and the money must be their own. The letter invites them to seek refunds if they don’t meet the criteria.

In 2004, Sargeant’s firm, International Oil Trading Co. LLC., won a $1-billion contract to supply petroleum to U.S. troops in Iraq.

One of Sargeant’s partners, Mohammad Anwar Farid Al-Saleh, is related by marriage to King Abdullah II of Jordan. Al-Saleh has sued Sargeant and Abu-Naba’a, contending he helped Sargeant win the contract but was cut out of millions in the enterprise’s profits.

Here is a copy of McCain’s letter:

August 7, 2008 Dear _____: Due to recent news reports, we are writing to remind you of the legal requirements for making contributions to federal candidates. John McCain 2008 is prohibited by federal law from accepting contributions from corporations, government contractors, or foreign nationals (persons who are not US citizens or permanent residents). We may only accept contributions made by individuals from their own funds. Such contributions may not be reimbursed to you by any other person or entity. We greatly appreciate your support and financial contribution. However, if your contribution does not meet all of these requirements, please contact me at ... immediately so that we can arrange a refund of your contribution. Sincerely, …John McCain 2008

-- Dan Morain