By MATTHEW DALY
WASHINGTON (AP) — A former aide to Sen. Maria Cantwell, arrested on federal sex charges last week, had worked for the 2004 presidential campaigns of Democrats Dick Gephardt and John Kerry.
James Michael McHaney, 28, of Washington, D.C., was ordered held without bond following a brief hearing Wednesday in federal court. Dressed in an orange jumpsuit and blue jacket, McHaney responded "Yes, sir," when questioned by Magistrate Judge John Facciola.
McHaney was fired Friday from his job as a scheduler for Cantwell, D-Wash., hours after he was arrested by FBI agents. The FBI said in a charging document that McHaney tried to set up a meeting with a witness posing online as a 13-year-old boy.
McHaney, a native of Little Rock, Ark., did advance work for both Gephardt, a former Missouri congressman, and Kerry, a Massachusetts senator, in their 2004 campaigns, Democrats said Wednesday.
A spokesman for Kerry confirmed that McHaney worked for the campaign from February to November 2004, but declined to comment.
Following the election McHaney worked for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights group, before being hired by Cantwell in July 2006.
Cantwell's chief of staff, Michael Meehan, is a veteran political operative who worked on the Kerry campaign before joining Cantwell's staff.
Meehan issued a strongly worded statement Monday night saying McHaney had been fired.
"Our office has and will continue to fully cooperate with the ongoing federal criminal investigation. Senator Cantwell has zero tolerance for crimes against children," Meehan said.
McHaney's lawyer, Thomas Abbenante, said in court Wednesday that his client would not exercise his right to a speedy trial, agreeing to a Jan. 14 court date. The nature of the charges, which involve allegations of extensive online communications between McHaney and the unidentified witness, require time to study, Abbenante said.
According to court papers, McHaney, known as Mike, said he would "take a long lunch" to meet with an unidentified person posing as a teenage boy. When the witness asked whether McHaney was interested in sex with a 13-year-old, McHaney allegedly replied, "I'll be there," the court papers said.
It is not known if McHaney used a Senate computer to arrange the alleged meetings. Abbenante declined to comment.
McHaney, who has no previous criminal record, was charged with attempted child exploitation. If convicted he faces at least five years in prison.