Those $1,000 Checks Do Add Up

John McCain is trying to buy his way into another six-year term in the U.S. Senate. He has raised $1.9 million, most of it from political action committees.

But a large amount was contributed by individuals all over this country who have never laid eyes on him. He is running against Evan Mecham and the heroic Claire Sargent. While McCain floods both radio and television, Sargent doesn't have enough money to buy a single commercial. Poor Mecham seems to be spending most of his energy dodging creditors.

In the meantime, McCain's coffers are overflowing. I wanted to know who would still spend money to help reelect a man who demonstrated by his actions in the notorious Charles Keating affair that he is morally unfit for the job.

The savings-and-loan scandal is the biggest financial crime of our lifetime. And McCain was cozier with Keating than any of the five senators brought before the Senate Ethics Committee.

So I took the elevator to the seventh floor of the Capitol the other day and went to the Secretary of State's Office. I picked up a list of the individuals who contributed this remarkable $1.9 million. There are 139 pages with almost 2,000 names on them.

It is an incredible list. When you scan the pages, questions flood your mind. Why are all these people who are running Budweiser distributorships all over the country making $1,000 donations to McCain?

Is he going to represent Anheuser-Busch? Who are some of these other people? What is their connection to McCain? What purpose do they have in donating this money? There are odd patterns. For example, McCain seems to have an extremely devoted following in faraway Fort Myers, Florida.

Mildred Onstine of Fort Myers, who lists herself as a retired person, made ten separate donations to McCain, totaling $6,190.

Also in Fort Myers, there is a Mildred Stine, who made nine donations totaling $2,365.

The similarity of names makes you wonder. Are Mildred Onstine and Mildred Stine the same person, separated only by a clerical error? There is a Mildred Onstine listed in the telephone book, but no Mildred Stine.

I reached Mildred Onstine. She said she was a retired government employee who had saved her money and invested it well.

She said that she had made all the donations to McCain herself. "Nobody ever gets my name straight," she said.

She explained how she had become a McCain contributor.

"I joined this group in Washington that is supposed to help in the election of worthy men," she said. "I was given McCain and Representatives Bob Dornan and Randy Cunningham of California. "Every time they would give me a promotion, it meant I had to donate more money," Onstine said.

"Senator McCain's office kept hounding me for donations. They kept asking for more and more money. I tried to resign several times. But I realized I had to keep going with this work, because these people in the Senate are working so hard that it was my duty to help them."

Onstine said she also does work for the blind and for Native American children. "I am not a person who lives lavishly," she explained.

I asked her if she donated to any political races in her own state. "No," she said, "just to McCain and Bob Dornan and Randy Cunningham of California."

All three, McCain, Dornan and Cunningham, were military pilots who have become conservative politicians.

Contrast Onstine's donations with those of some powerful and wealthy Phoenix residents and you can see why three-quarters of McCain's money comes from out of state. Dr. Ted Diethrich, the famous heart surgeon now working here at Humana Hospital, donated $500. Burton Barr, infamous behind-the-scenes politician, gave a paltry $300. Burton Kruglick, Republican party front man, came up with a mere $500.

When it comes to postelection favors, this probably won't get Dr. Ted Terrific, Barr or Kruglick the time of day from McCain.

Compare those figures with the generous donations to McCain from some residents of Parker, over by the Colorado River. For example, George Field and his family gave $6,000. Field runs a resort called Black Meadow Landing on Bureau of Land Management property. Dr. Harrison Burnett and his son-in-law, Robert Atkins, donated a total of $5,400. They are involved in Castle Rock Shores, a private resort on BLM property three miles south of Parker Dam in La Paz County.

Sam Siar of Parker donated $4,000. He also is involved with BLM property.

Senator McCain would be a good friend for all of them to have.

There are some other Arizona residents who gave generously. There is Tom Chauncey, former owner of KTSP-TV Channel 10, who gave $6,000. Thomas and Mary Lou McClain of Scottsdale gave $7,400. Louis Pozez of Tucson Consolidated gave $7,000.

There are donations that stand out even though they aren't large. For example, there is the ambitious political figure Mark Dioguardi, who gave $2,000, and William S. Franke, who gave $1,000. Franke is now running America West Airlines. Richard Mallery of Snell & Wilmer, an attorney with a finger seemingly in every pie, donated $1,000.

Karl Kunasek, the former state legislator whom McCain helped get a government job on the Navajo Reservation, gave $1,000. Don Laughlin, the gambling impresario who has a reason for wanting gaming on Indian reservations stopped, donated $2,000.

Those behind the scenes say it was a suggestion from McCain that prompted his appointee, U.S. Attorney Linda Akers, to confiscate tribal gaming devices.

James Norling of Motorola gave $4,000. Richard Snell of Pinnacle West gave $2,000. Doug Wead, a candidate for Congress, gave $2,000. Joe Woods, the Mesa contractor and father of Attorney General Grant Woods, gave $3,000.

Lawrence Robbins, who lists himself as a rancher in Patagonia, gave $7,000. Don Diamond, once a part owner of the Phoenix Suns, gave $4,000.

In a heartwarming example of family giving, Michael M. Boich and family members Mika, Lorna, John, Emeline, Doris and Cynthia made ten donations totaling $9,000. Here's how some of these things come about.

Ellen St. John Garwood of Austin, Texas, a freelance writer, is listed as donating $4,000. When contacted by telephone, St. John Garwood explained that McCain had sent back $3,000 of the donation. She had already donated her legal limit of $25,000 to a PAC called Conservative Victory Fund. St. John Garwood explained that she was the author of a best seller about her father, Will Clayton, founder of M.D. Anderson Clayton Company and, she said, "the real author of the Marshall Plan, although he never got credit for it." "He went down to Washington," she said, "because he had made a lot of money here in Texas as a banker and wanted to pay the country back. I donated to McCain because he's a good, conservative senator."

But she has never met McCain.

Ross Farnsworth of Mesa and his family donated $6,000.

"We're anxious for him to go back and represent us," Farnsworth said when reached by telephone. "We'd feel awful bad if he didn't win."

R.H. Pickens of Dallas gave $4,000. Ronald Perelman of Revlon, Inc., in New York donated $1,000. Lincoln Ragsdale of Paradise Valley gave $250. Harry Rosenzweig Sr., Barry Goldwater's best friend, gave $200.

There are dozens more interesting stories, but who has the time to check them all out?

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Tom Fitzpatrick