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McCain Camp Returning $50K Raised by Foreigner

Well that certainly didn’t take long. Shortly after announcing yesterday afternoon that it would review bundled contributions from Harry Sargeant, a wealthy Florida businessman amid news reports that suggested some of the donations may have illegally come from a foreign national, the McCain campaign said late yesterday it would return $50,000 to some California donors as a precaution. From The Los Angeles Times:

The campaign sent letters Thursday explaining federal campaign finance law to all donors whose contributions were solicited by Sargeant and his business partner, Mustafa Abu-Naba’a, believed to be a citizen of Jordan and the Dominican Republic.

Only U.S. citizens can donate to federal campaigns, and the money must be their own.

The letter said that if the contributions failed to meet these requirements, the donor should contact the campaign "immediately so that we can arrange a refund."

But rather than wait for a response, the campaign announced late in the day that it would refund money to 13 California donors who accounted for about $50,000.

"We’re going to take the precautionary step of returning the contributions solicited by Mr. Abu-Naba’a," McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said. He noted that one of the donors was quoted in The New York Times this week as saying he would not vote for McCain even though he had given the money. "It just didn’t sit right."

The Republican National Committee also is reviewing donations arranged by Sargeant, RNC spokesman Alex Conant said.

When The Washington Post first raised questionsfollowed by The New York Times — about Sargeant’s donations, Rogers did not seem to concerned. From The New York Times:

Brian Rogers, a spokesman for Mr. McCain, said the campaign strictly followed campaign finance laws and as a general rule would look into a matter if flags were raised, but he declined to say whether it would look into the contributions tied to Mr. Sargeant.

I know that in a campaign, the first gut reaction when presented with damaging allegations is to wait and see how much attention they garner, or just deny and hope they go away — and in this case, they might go away pretty quickly — though there are still questions about Sargeant’s business dealings. However, it never ceases to amaze me how many scandals — even potential ones — could be headed off if politicians would actually look into the charges and take appropriate actions first, instead of casually dismissing them.

It would seem, to me at least, to be the safer bet in the long run to address possible scandals promptly, before they blow up. Maybe that’s why I’ll never have a career in politics.

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