In the presidential campaign, McCain had confided that his intervention with bank regulators on Keating's behalf was the worst mistake of his adult life, one that caused him as much anguish as spending five years in a North Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp. The Arizona Republican said the incident taught him that "the appearance of impropriety" can be as damaging as actual wrongdoing.
Hey John, this has the "appearance of impropriety":
On Nov. 17, 1999, McCain wrote to FCC chairman William Kennard and asked that the FCC vote promptly on the three-way transfer of a Pittsburgh TV station to Paxson. The application had been pending since May 30, 1997, more than two years. McCain claimed that most decisions take about 418 days.
In a second letter on Dec. 10, 1999, McCain asked Kennard "that each member of the commission advise me, in writing" before their next open meeting on Dec. 15 "whether you have already acted upon these applications" and, if not, why not. McCain added that his "purpose is not to suggest in any way how you should vote -- merely that you vote."
FCC chairman Kennard bristled. "I must respectfully note that it is highly unusual for the commissioners to be asked to publicly announce their voting status" on a pending matter, he wrote back. After the exchange, the FCC did approve Paxson's application, but it was unclear what, if any, influence McCain's letter had on the FCC's ruling.
Though less dramatic than five senators sitting down with banking officials, the Paxson intervention did have parallels to the Keating case.
Company chairman Lowell Paxson and McCain had become personal friends, with Paxson and his executives lavishing more than $20,000 in campaign donations on McCain. McCain also enjoyed the convenience of flying around on Paxson's corporate jet, including one flight on Dec. 9, a week before the Claremont summit. A planned Paxson fund-raiser for McCain was canceled when the story broke in January.
Keating also was generous with campaign support for McCain, giving the senator $112,000, still McCain's all-time highest contributor, according to the Center for Public Integrity -- money that McCain later paid back to the U.S. Treasury.
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