Questions Submitted to the McCain Campaign Wednesday
Answers are from Brian Rogers, a spokesman for the McCain campaign.
1. What led Sen. McCain to submit the legislation for the Yavapai Ranch Land Exchange in 2003?
RESPONSE: At the request of the U.S. Forest Service, as well as many Northern Arizona communities, Senator McCain agreed to introduce the proposal to consolidate the largest remaining checkerboard ownership in the state to improve the management of forest lands and conservation of natural resources. The legislation also provided communities with an opportunity to acquire land needed for economic development, community services, and open space. And, perhaps most importantly to Senator McCain, in direct response to concerns raised by local communities, the final measure included requirements for responsible water use in the affected communities, which set an important precedent for the entire state.
2. Dr. Ruskin hired as lobbyists several former staff members and advisers to Sen. McCain. In what way did they influence Sen. McCain's thinking about the land exchange proposal?
RESPONSE: No lobbyist influenced Senator McCain on this issue. Just as he does in the ordinary course of constituency service, Senator McCain welcomed the views of all interested parties, including the U.S. Forest Service officials, Mayors and city officials from the affected communities, community groups, and local area residents who attended meetings that Senator McCain held in Northern Arizona when the bill was working its way through the legislative process. Senator McCain’s staffers who worked most closely on the legislation also met occasionally with Dr. Ruskin, but they do not recall ever being directly lobbied by any former staffers of Senator McCain. Staff also believes that if you asked lobbyists involved in the issue at the time, they would convey frustration about the position that Senator McCain took on this issue. Basically, Senator McCain was determined that before he would support any final legislation, it was critical that it not only provide for an equal value exchange, but that the very important water usage issues be dealt with as part of any legislative agreement—a position that Dr. Ruskin did not share. As a result, the final agreement on the legislation spanned two Congresses, and it was often reported that an agreement would not be reached.
Attached for your information are Senator McCain’s Congressional Record statements, as well as related editorials, to help you to better understand Senator McCain’s interest in this matter.
3. At what point during the legislative process did Sen. McCain become aware that Suncor would be partners in the development of the Yavapai Ranch and Camp Verde properties?
RESPONSE: At no point during the legislative process. To the knowledge of Senator McCain and his staff, the private land identified in the legislation, “Yavapai Ranch,” was owned and controlled solely by Fred Ruskin and other members of the Ruskin family. At no time during the consideration of this legislation was there any involvement by officials of SunCor, nor was there any indication that any party other than that of the Ruskin family had any association with Yavapai Ranch. Neither Senator McCain nor his staff saw any indication that a partnership you are asking about was even being contemplated during the relevant period. Only sometime after the bill’s enactment (perhaps 6 months or more), Ruskin was reportedly in discussions with outside parties (other than those listed in the legislation) regarding the sale of his properties. Neither Senator McCain nor his staff had any knowledge regarding what, if any, private business deal may have been executed by Mr. Ruskin.
4. Did Steve Betts ever discuss the land exchange with Sen. McCain?
5. Sen. McCain had a hand in several land exchanges over the years. Does he continue to believe land exchanges involving the forest service or the military represent sound policy and a fair deal for taxpayers?
RESPONSE: Senator McCain believes that legislative land exchanges, if properly employed, are a beneficial tool to promote the conservation, stewardship, and wise use of our public lands system. He certainly recognizes that there have been well-documented abuses of legislative land exchanges, but every land exchange bill introduced by Senator McCain has been written with the highest regard for the public interest. He strongly feels that all legislative land exchanges should be done with a great deal of public input and in accordance with the standard appraisal polices put in place by the Bureau of Land Management to ensure the public interest is protected.
6. On several occassions, Sen. McCain worked on land exchange legislation that involved property in which campaign donors had a financial stake. Among them: A 1994 swap in the Las Vegas area involving the land Developer Del Webb Corp and its lobbyist; legislation in 1991 and 1994 regarding land swaps involving Donald R. Diamond; a trade proposed in 1997 involving the preservation of 2,250 acres of Sonoran desert that allowed for development in the Tonto National Forest, including land owned in part by Great American Life Insurance, the company run by Carl Lindner. How does Mr. McCain explain the close timing of campaign contributions to his efforts on those land exchange deals?
RESPONSE: Rather than offer a single explanation describing the events leading up to Senator McCain’s legislative involvement in all the land deals to which you refer, we are willing to try to answer specific questions you may have on each. What can be said about all of them, without further specific questions, is that Senator McCain did absolutely nothing to help, improperly or inappropriately, any campaign donor on any land deal.