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Top McCain Adviser Has Found Success Mixing Money, Politics
While working for Dole, Davis told a reporter that he was "blown away" by McCain's unconventional politics. In 1999, when McCain began his first presidential bid, he chose Davis to manage his campaign. When the effort fizzled, Davis returned to lobbying and put the McCain connection to use.
When McCain started the Reform Institute in 2001 to promote campaign finance reform, he turned to Davis. Though still actively lobbying, Davis pulled in $120,000 as an institute consultant in 2002.
Davis brought with him other McCain insiders, and fundraising took off. In 2003, tax filings show, Davis earned $110,000 in fees, and in 2004 and 2005, while he served as president of the institute, his salary totaled $165,000. Tax forms said he worked five hours a week or "as needed."
But critics questioned whether a nonprofit closely tied to McCain should collect donations from companies with business before the Senate commerce committee, which McCain chaired.
While running the institute, Davis added several lobbying clients who needed McCain's help.
In 2003, for instance, DHL Holdings (USA) and Airborne hired Davis to lobby the Senate to facilitate a merger. Hotly opposed by shipping giants FedEx and United Parcel Service, the merger encountered opposition from Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) on the commerce committee. McCain took steps that helped Davis's clients. He thwarted Stevens's effort to insert language into legislation that would prohibit foreign-controlled companies such as DHL from holding certain military contracts.
Davis's firm earned $125,000 from Airborne in 2003 and $465,000 from DHL parent company Deutsche Post World Net (USA) from 2003 to 2005, records show.
A group called Preserve Luke Air Force Base hired Davis in 2004 and 2005 to help win approval of an Arizona land swap. Guy Inzalaco, who was part of a development group, formed Preserve Luke AFB to push for the exchange. He knew McCain's help would be critical.
"We were like, 'Okay, who's close to Senator McCain?' " Inzalaco recalled. "There were a number of people. We talked to them all. Rick [Davis] was one of them. We knew he was tight with the senator."
Inzalaco's group paid Davis's firm $125,000 to lobby the Senate, records show. The deal ultimately did not go through. McCain worked to authorize $14.3 million in a 2003 defense bill to buy land around Luke Air Force Base -- a provision sought by SunCor Development, which has been a McCain supporter. The Air Force later paid SunCor $3 million for 122 acres near the suburban Phoenix base.
Campaign spokesman Brian Rogers said that "whatever lobbying activities that Mr. Davis did" on those matters "preceded his employment with, and is therefore wholly unrelated to, the campaign."
While Davis focused on domestic clients, Manafort did foreign work and helped manage the campaign of Ukrainian politician Viktor Yanukovich, even as the U.S. government (and McCain) opposed him because of his ties to Russia's Vladimir Putin.