McCain’s Big Oil Connection – CPI Investigation: Newt Gingrich’s 527 Group American Solutions for Winning the Future

Mixing Oil and Politics Is Formula for Newt's 'Solutions'

By: Center for Public Integrity
Sep 12, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 11, 2008 - How did "Drill, baby, drill" become the rallying cry that is shaping the debate in the 2008 race for the presidency? A new investigation by the Center for Public Integrity, "Mixing Oil and Politics," for the first time takes a close look behind the Newt Gingrich-led 527 group American Solutions for Winning the Future, which campaigns to promote opening up more U.S offshore oil drilling. Gingrich's group has drawn in more money than any other conservative issues advocacy group this election season.

The top donors to Gingrich's 527 Solutions group are not from Big Oil, as some have surmised. Instead, they are mostly GOP stalwarts, including seven of Senator John McCain's top fundraising Trailblazers. The group also received a recent big donation in July from Crow Holdings, the Dallas-based investment firm chaired by prominent Republican benefactor Harlan Crow, who helped give the Swift Vets their seed money in 2004. While American Solutions by all appearances strives to steer clear of Federal Election Commission regulation, its chairman, Mr. Gingrich, vows to do all in his power to elect the GOP candidate.

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American Solutions' biggest supporters include seven top McCain fundraisers:

- Sheldon Adelson, chairman of the Las Vegas Sands casino company, bankrolled the nonprofit advocacy group Freedom's Watch, which advocated continued involvement in the Iraq war. He was among a clique of fundraisers who met with the candidate in Aspen last month.

- Carl Lindner III, the co-chief executive of American Financial Group in Cincinnati, held a fundraiser for McCain at his home in June. He and his father, Carl Jr., the United Dairy Farms tycoon, were both among President George W. Bush's top fundraisers, known as Rangers.

- Richard Farmer, founder and chairman of Cintas, the giant corporate uniform company in Cincinnati, also a former Bush Ranger, co-chaired the June fundraiser at Lindner's home.

- Robert Wood "Woody" Johnson IV, owner of the New York Jets and an heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, hosted in May what was then the single-largest fundraiser to date for McCain, raking in $7 million. The close to $10 million he raised for the RNC convention earned him his own hospitality suite in St. Paul.

- Gordon Smith, a real estate developer in suburban Washington, D.C., raised nearly $100,000 for McCain by tapping friends, colleagues, and people he "had done favors for," he recently told the University of Maryland's Capital News Service.

- Stephen Brauer, president of Hunter Engineering in St. Louis, gave to American Solutions a month before hosting a fundraiser at his St. Louis estate in July that reportedly netted $1.6 million for McCain and the Republican National Committee. A Bush Pioneer in 2000 (having raised more than $100,000), Brauer was appointed ambassador to Belgium by Bush in 2001. He was a Bush Ranger in 2004.

- Fred Malek, the private equity tycoon who is McCain's national finance co-chairman, isn't in the top tier of American Solutions' contributors, but he did give $5,000 to Gingrich's group a year ago.

The Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit, nonpartisan independent 501(c) 3 Washington, D.C.-based organization that does investigative reporting and research on significant public issues.

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