John McCain campaigning through poverty-stricken cities and towns opposes equal pay for women but arranges favors for cronies.
McCain’s assistance came to light in a New York Times front-page story Tuesday, thrusting Seaside’s real estate machinations with Fort Ord into the national campaign spotlight.
Diamond, 80, stated in Monterey County court records that on several occasions he asked McCain to intercede in Seaside water and real estate affairs, and local officials say he boasted of his close friendship with the senator. According to McCain’s campaign Web site, Diamond has raised more than $250,000 for the senator’s presidential bid.
“Keep in mind there is another $100 million opportunity just across the road if we are in a position to influence ownership of water …” Diamond’s associate Donald Pitt wrote in a memo.
In a 1998 memo to Pitt, Diamond wrote, “I also heard that there is additional land that Seaside is getting from the Army and that could make this an even bigger play than we thought.”
They set their sights on the opulent Bayonet and Black Horse golf course developments, and Diamond again asked McCain for support in a deal Diamond described in the court records as a “love fest.” Also known as The Fairmont, the development project now includes the renovation of the golf courses, a 330-room hotel, 125 homes and 170 timeshare units.
Diamond’s partnership, Seaside Resort Development, submitted a thick packet to Seaside officials in response to the city’s solicitation of golf course resort developers. The packet included a hearty letter of endorsement for Diamond on McCain’s senate letterhead and signed by McCain, along with letters from a couple of other Arizona politicians.
Don Jordan, a Seaside councilman who was mayor from 1994 to 1998, said he never saw McCain’s letter.
Letters of support
McCain’s letter was among appoximately a dozen from politicians, businesses and local officials in support of Diamond. U.S. Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz., and a congressman at the time, Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., also sent letters of support.
In his letter, McCain called Diamond “an uncommonly dedicated public citizen … and a close personal friend.”
“You get letters from people for their development all the time,” Jordan said.
Jordan said he seldom talked to Diamond because most of the negotiations about the project were handled by city administrators and the operators of the golf courses.
It wasn’t until after Jordan was defeated for re-election in 1998 and left the council that Seaside finalized the golf deal with Diamond. He said he hadn’t heard any mention of McCain in connection with Diamond until this week’s news reports.
Daniel Keen, the city manager of Seaside from 2000 to 2004, said the deal over the Seaside golf course and resorts mostly was completed by the time he started with the city.
But Keen, who is manager of the city of Novato, said he recalls discussions with Diamond and his partner Donald Pitt about the project in which “references to McCain were inserted in a lot of conversations.”
Keen said at times Diamond raised McCain’s name “just in passing.”
“If you got to know Diamond, he was very gregarious, very wealthy and he liked to talk about his wealth,” Keen said. “McCain’s name came up from time to time. They were involved in Arizona. That’s how I know he had some kind of relationship.”
In 2002, McCain’s help was again requested when there was a plan for a land swap on Fort Ord to address water issues, Keen said.
Keen said Diamond brought up McCain as a possible means of getting “the Army coaxed along to do the swap.”
McCain steps away
In May of that year, according to court records, Keen wrote in a letter to Diamond: “Once again, on behalf of the City of Seaside, we appreciate any assistance you can provide in helping us ‘revive’ the swap proposal.”
Diamond sent a letter to McCain that included two Herald articles about water shortages on the Peninsula and in North Monterey County, writing “I would appreciate it if you would follow up and drop a line to the city manager of Seaside.”
But Diamond said something was going on with McCain’s chairmanship of the Senate Commerce Committee at the time, “and John said that he would rather not get involved, he didn’t think it was right. And I said, ‘Okay, thank you.'”
In a 2003 deposition, Diamond was unapologetic about asking McCain for help with his projects. A message left by The Herald at Diamond’s business office in Tucson was not returned Tuesday.
Diamond said he knew “a lot of the senators and congressmen,” because he was a lobbyist for the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee. But his friendship with McCain, he said, went back to the times “he got out of the concentration camp,” referring to McCain’s days as a prisoner of war.