Opiate for the Mrs.

When laws are broken, somebody's got to be punished. In the case of Cindy McCain, that somebody is Tom Gosinski

"I don't know that I was that well-composed on the inside," he says. McCain allowed him to stay through January, at his request, and offered a month's severance pay.

Typed on AVMT stationery, McCain's letter read in part: "It is with deep regret and a heavy heart that I must terminate your position with AVMT. Your termination is due to the decline in contributions and our inability to continue to pay you at this time. Your service both to a small nonprofit such as we are and more importantly to the suffering peoples of the world is commendable. . . ." She offered her assistance in finding another job and signed the letter "Respectfully."

Fellow workers Orrick and Walker took Gosinski to Lombardi's restaurant at Arizona Center for a farewell lunch on his last day; McCain was invited, but didn't attend. Gosinski was hurt.

Hurt turned to disbelief, he says, when he learned he was not eligible for unemployment benefits because AVMT, as a nonprofit organization, has the luxury of opting not to pay into the kitty.

Gosinski suspected that prescriptions had been filled in his name without his knowledge. So in February 1993, a month after his termination, Gosinski met with a representative from the DEA whose name he refuses to reveal. A DEA official confirms that Gosinski first contacted the agency in "early 1993."

He says he did not go to the DEA intending to blow the whistle, but was concerned that his name might become embroiled in a future investigation. He posed what he calls a "what if" scenario: "If a person knows that prescriptions have been written in their name, and they never met with the doctor and they don't know the whereabouts of the drugs, what is their responsibility? And I was told it was my responsibility to turn it in. So at that moment I began to cooperate with the DEA."

Gosinski says he told the DEA of his suspicions, and an agent called Gosinski back to show him copies of two prescriptions written in his name, by Dr. Max Johnson at Cindy McCain's behest. Gosinski says he told the DEA he had no knowledge of the prescriptions. Gosinski says he went to Lahr Pharmacy in north-central Phoenix and asked if any prescriptions had been filled in his name. Indeed, two had; the pharmacist gave him copies, he says.

It had been months since his departure from AVMT, and he couldn't find a job. After sending out hundreds of résumés for positions in government relations and personnel, he took a part-time job at a gift shop owned by friends. He was humiliated and broke.

In late 1993, he was hired as a salesman at Borders Books & Music in Phoenix. He applied with his old employer, America West, as a new hire and got a job selling tour packages. Gosinski works 80 hours a week and makes half of what he made at AVMT.

The more he thought about AVMT, the more he became convinced that he had been wrongfully terminated. He believed that after Cindy McCain learned that he was bellyaching about prescription-writing practices--and after John McCain had been sworn into the U.S. Senate--he became expendable.

Under state law, he had just one year from the day he was fired to file a civil lawsuit against his former employer. A local labor attorney, Stan Lubin, agreed to take his case on a contingency basis, but warned Gosinski he wouldn't represent him if the case went to court--unless Gosinski could scrape together the money to pay him up-front.

Gosinski filed his lawsuit in January 1994, but kept his complaint vague and withheld specific allegations about Cindy McCain. In February, Lubin wrote a letter to one of McCain's attorneys, Gary Stuart, asking for a $250,000 settlement.

After Lubin withdrew, Gosinski searched for a new attorney, but none would take on a case against Cindy McCain. He missed subsequent deadlines to file amendments to his complaint and keep it alive.

"There is no lawsuit. It expired July 11," Stuart tells New Times.
While his civil claim was withering away, a criminal investigation of Tom Gosinski was going strong.

Cindy McCain can thank her attorney, John Dowd, for thrusting the story of her drug addiction into the public realm. If Dowd had not insisted that the county attorney investigate Tom Gosinski's alleged extortion of Cindy McCain, accounts of her pill-popping likely would have remained on the cocktail circuit.

But that's Dowd's style. He's got lots of political muscle and he doesn't hesitate to flex it. The former federal prosecutor, now in private law practice in Washington, D.C., has become a fixture on the Arizona political landscape in recent years.

He represented John McCain during the Keating Five hearings, and although McCain was rebuked for his role, the senator was treated with relative lenience.

Dowd orchestrated Governor Fife Symington's favorable settlement of a $210 million suit filed against the governor by the federal Resolution Trust Corporation. Symington and Dowd attacked the governor's accusers. At one point during the ruckus, Dowd got an enterprising Mesa Tribunereporter yanked off the story by challenging him to a fistfight. When the reporter accepted--in front of a group of horrified editors--Dowd achieved his goal. (The reporter, John Dougherty, now writes for New Times.)

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