Well that certainly didn't take long. Just hours after Senator John McCain's campaign called "The Maverick's" GOP primary opponent J.D. Hayworth "corrupt," Hayworth's campaign has fired back, claiming McCain tried to blackmail Hayworth into supporting his "amnesty bill" by threatening to discuss his alleged corruption with the media.
Hayworth's campaign released e-mails written in 2005 by McCain's former chief of staff Mark Salter. The e-mails, Hayworth claims, were sent to a member his staff while Hayworth was still in Congress.
In one e-mail, Salter says "FYI: We've been inundated with press requests to comment on your boss's abrahamoff [sic], sky box, etc. situation. We've refused them. I think you should be prepared for that to change."
Hayworth claims the threat came after he publicly criticized McCain's "amnesty bill," and Salter wasn't too happy about it.
"As you can guess, much consternation here over your boss's [sic] quick attack on a bill we've been working on for months, in the most arduous discussion, and, we think, managed to arrive at a very good product with a broad constituency behind it, not to mention three of your boss' delegation members. Obviously the attack occurred before anyone has even seen the bill. At best, it was discourteous, and we took it quite personally," Salter continued.
Hayworth claims he's been hush-hush about the threat during the campaign because it's an "ugly matter." However, according to an article in the Arizona Republic last October, before officially challenging McCain, Hayworth discussed the "threat" on his radio show.
Check out the Republic's article here. Doesn't exactly sound like someone who wanted to keep this "ugly matter" under wraps, as Hayworth now claims.
Salter seems almost flattered that J.D.'s still bitching about what he described in the Republic article as an "angry" e-mail.
We contacted the McCain campaign to give it a chance to comment. The campaign sent us back some statements that Salter made today in response to Hayworth's claims. Check out what Salter has to say below:
"I am the author of the email JD Hayworth has been whining about to anyone who will listen for years. Had I known it would have made such an impact on his psyche I would have saved a copy for myself.
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"I sent the email to then Rep. Hayworth's chief of staff on my own authority without consulting Senator McCain.
"It was not meant as a threat. I didn't say I would go to the press unless Hayworth ceased criticizing the Senator. I simply informed his chief of staff that since Hayworth had shown so little courtesy to the Senator, I was no longer inclined to ignore reporters' inquiries to me on his relationship with Jack Abramoff, which was already public knowledge.
"Then and now, I have no reservation about commenting on Hayworth's involvement. In my opinion, officeholders like JD Hayworth, who routinely put self interest ahead of principles and the public interest, who value nothing so much as their own ambition and the sound of their own voice, make the Jack Abramoffs of the world possible."
McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rogers says: "Facts are stubborn things. Congressman Hayworth did favors for Jack Abramoff and his friends, failed to report his use of Abramoff's skyboxes for lavish political fundraisers, was the subject of federal investigation into Abramoff's illegal dealings, and was the top recipient of dirty Abramoff money -- money he failed to return. Arizona deserves better."