As Sen. John McCain assumes the GOP front-runner mantle, his long-standing, but little-noticed association with donors such as George Soros and Teresa Heinz Kerry is receiving new attention among his Republican critics.
In 2001, McCain founded the Alexandria, Va.-based Reform Institute as a vehicle to receive funding from George Soros’ Open Society Institute and Teresa Heinz Kerry’s Tides Foundation and several other prominent non-profit organizations.
McCain used the institute to promote his political agenda and provide compensation to key campaign operatives between elections.
In 2006, the Arizona senator was forced to sever his formal ties with the Reform Institute after a controversial $200,000 contribution from Cablevision came to light. McCain solicited the donation for the Reform Institute using his membership on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. In a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, he supported Cablevision’s push to introduce the more profitable al la carte pricing, rather than packages of TV programming.
Yet, the Reform Institute still employs the McCain campaign’s Hispanic outreach director, Juan Hernandez, as a senior fellow of its Comprehensive Immigration Reform Initiative.
As WND reported, Hernandez serves as a non-paid volunteer for the McCain campaign. A dual Mexican-U.S. citizen, he was a member of former President Vicente Fox’s cabinet, representing an estimate 24 million Mexicans living abroad. Hernandez, with a “Mexico first” message, has argued aggressively against building a fence on the Mexican border, insisting the frontier needed to remain wide open so illegal immigrants could easily enter the U.S.
The July 6, 2001, homepage of the Reform Institute archived on the Internet lists founder McCain as chairman of the group’s advisory committee.
Prominent senior officials on the McCain 2008 presidential campaign staff found generously paid positions at the Reform Institute following the senator’s unsuccessful run for the White House in 2000.
Rick Davis, McCain’s current campaign manager, was paid $110,000 a year by the Reform Institute for a consulting position, according to the group’s 2003 Form 990 filing with the IRS.
In 2004, Davis advanced to the position of Reform Institute president, with an annual salary of $120,000, according to the group’s 2004 Form 990.
In 2005, Davis remained president, but his salary dropped back to $45,000 a year, with a time commitment of five hours per week, according the 2005 Form 990.
Carla Eudy, a senior advisor on McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign who until recently headed fundraising, was paid $177,885 in 2005 to serve as the Reform Institute’s secretary-treasurer.
Other McCain presidential campaign staffers who have found employment at the Reform Institute include Trevor Potter, McCain’s 2000 legal counsel, and Crystal Benton, the senator’s former press secretary, who served as institute’s communications director in 2005 for an annual salary of $52,083.
The Reform Institute regularly has supported McCain in various legislative efforts, including on campaign finance reform, global warming and “comprehensive immigration reform,” all efforts widely opposed by many in the party’s conservative base.
Arianna Huffington, syndicated columnist and creator of the HuffingtonPost.com, has served on the Reform Institute’s advisory committee since the group’s inception.
According to FrontPage Magazine, Teresa Heinz Kerry has provided more than $4 million to the Tides Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by anti-war activist Drummond Pike in 1976 with a history of funding causes such as abortion, homosexual-rights activism and open borders.
Financial contributors while McCain was chairman of the Reform Institute also have included the Educational Foundation of America, a group that supports abortion and opposes drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve.
The Soros-Kerry funding connection with McCain was first exposed by Ed Morrissey at the Captains Quarters blog in 2005.
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