Opiate for the Mrs.

You're U.S. Senator John McCain, and you've got a big problem.
Your wife, Cindy, was addicted to prescription painkillers. She stole pills from a medical-aid charity she heads and she used the names of unsuspecting employees to get prescriptions.

The public is about to find out about it.
Until now, you've managed to keep it all quiet. When Tom Gosinski, a man your wife fired, sued for wrongful termination and threatened to expose the whole sordid story, you didn't hesitate to call in the big guns.

John Dowd, the attorney who got you out of your Keating Five mess, worked on getting your wife a sweetheart deal with federal prosecutors. He also made Gosinski's lawsuit go away.

He didn't stop there.
To help maintain your reputation and discredit your wife's accuser, Dowd called Maricopa County Attorney Richard Romley and complained that Gosinski was trying to extort money. Romley, your Republican ally, promptly launched an extortion investigation.

But now New Times makes a public records request for documents in the extortion case. It's only a matter of days before the story gets out.

Here's what the senator does.
He calls in another big gun, political strategist Jay Smith, who conceives a rather remarkable plan.

On August 19--just three days before the records are to be made public--Smith parades your wife before a select group of journalist friends. She tells a tale of pain and triumph, and, incredibly, all the reporters agree to sit on the story until August 22. When Cindy McCain says her confession is intended to quell rumors and to inspire other druggies to turn their lives around, the journalists lap it up. They write about her "bravery." The first round of stories is one-sided. There is no mention of Tom Gosinski or Romley's extortion investigation.

But after a week, there is no glossing over huge gaps in the image that has been spun for the public:

• Cindy McCain lied about drug treatment she claims to have undergone. Although she told reporters she went into a residential drug treatment program earlier this year, she told investigators she had treatment during 1991 and 1992. Whom did she lie to--investigators or reporters?

• If Cindy McCain did undergo treatment before 1994, as she told investigators, the senator's claim that he didn't learn of his wife's addiction until this January simply defies credibility.

• Cindy McCain and Jay Smith lied about her status with federal prosecutors. She told a Tucson reporter she had already completed a pretrial diversion program. Smith told another reporter that the case had come to "resolution." In fact, Cindy McCain hasn't even been accepted into a diversion program.

• Jay Smith misled the Arizona Republic when he said that Gosinski had, in an act of retribution, tipped federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents after failing to get a cash settlement. In fact, Gosinski was talking to the DEA 11 months before he ever filed his wrongful termination claim.

• Tom Gosinski no longer has a civil lawsuit against Cindy McCain. It died of neglect this summer.

While the stories told by the senator, his wife and his hired guns are rife with inaccuracies and inconsistencies, everything Tom Gosinski says seems to check out.

John and Cindy McCain are now attempting to return to lives of privilege and prestige. If she gets into a diversion program and lives by its rules, she'll have no criminal record.

Meanwhile, one volunteer doctor who wrote prescriptions at Cindy McCain's behest is under investigation. He could lose his license.

And Tom Gosinski, the man who knew too much, is under criminal investigation, working two jobs and trying to put his life back together.

From September 1991 to January 1993, Tom Gosinski was the director of government and international affairs for the American Voluntary Medical Team, a nonprofit organization headed by Cindy Hensley McCain.

Gosinski says McCain started behaving erratically in the summer of 1992. He says he and other AVMT staff members became convinced she was addicted to the prescription narcotics Percocet and Vicodin. They believed she was obtaining these drugs illegally in the names of her employees and the public charity she founded.

Gosinski's multiple claims--the knowledge of which, he says, led McCain to fire him in January 1993--were central to a federal investigation, a civil lawsuit, the extortion investigation and, finally, a statewide media circus.

New Times obtained a copy of Gosinski's private journal. It covers the period from early July 1992 through January 1993. Gosinski did not grant New Times permission to print excerpts from the journal, but neither did he disavow their accuracy. The 52 journal entries, recorded during Cindy McCain's drug meltdown, paint a disturbing picture.

July 27, 1992: I have always wondered why John McCain has done nothing to fix the problem. He must either not see that a problem exists or does not choose to do anything about it. It would seem that it would be in everyone's best interest to come to terms with the situation. And do whatever is necessary to fix it. There is so much at risk: The welfare of the children; John's political career; the integrity of Hensley & Company; the welfare of Jim and Smitty Hensley; and the health and happiness of Cindy McCain.