Sen. John McCain has asserted his opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin a number of times, going so far as joining with Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., in 2005 to introduce legislation calling on President Bush to suspend Russia’s membership in the Group of Eight.
That opposition, however, is being called into question by links that have been established in various reports between McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, and Ukrainian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who is suspected of having ties to organized Russian crime.
Davis even arranged for McCain to meet Deripaska at a time when Davis’ lobbying firm was working under contract with Ukrainian political leaders supported by Putin’s regime in Moscow.
Moreover, Davis’ decision to retain his position in his lobbying firm while serving as McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign manager raises questions about McCain’s sincerity in his self-avowed campaign to eliminate influence peddling from U.S. politics.
It was in 2006 when Davis arranged an introduction between McCain and Deripaska, a billionaire Russian aluminum magnate, during an international economic conference in Davos, Switzerland, according to a report by the Washington Post in January.
Davis, at the time of the meeting, was president of the George Soros-funded Reform Institute and managing partner in his Washington, D.C., lobbying firm, Davis, Manafort & Freeman.
Deripaska, whose net worth is estimated to exceed $13 billion, is widely reported to be a close ally of Putin.
At the time of the meeting, Paul Manafort, Davis’ partner in the lobbying firm bearing their names, had a contract to advise Ukrainian politician and former prime minister Victor Yanukovych, the Putin-supported leader of the Party of Regions who in 2006 was then vying with Victor Yushchenko in the parliamentary elections in a bid to form a pro-Moscow government.
In 2006, McCain as chairman of the International Republican Institute, or IRI,openly supported Yushchenko, arguing Yanukovych’s alleged ties to the Russian mafia and the KGB disqualified him from being the type of democratic leaders needed to advance the Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution.”
In the 2006 effort, McCain again was joined by Soros who was openly funding Yushchenko in the contest against Yanukovych.
The Washington Post reported Deripaska was sufficiently grateful for the introduction to write a thank you note, obtained by the Washington Post, to Davis and Manafort and offering to assist them in a subsequent business deal.
A WND phone call to McCain’s presidential campaign seeking an explanation of McCain’s meeting with Deripaska went unanswered.
But McCain has frequently been a vocal opponent of Putin.
According to a CNN report at the time of his 2005 work with Lieberman, McCain urged Bush to rebuke Putin for turning away from democracy in Russia, accepting Yanukovych as Ukrainian prime minister in a heavily disputed election, and for encouraging Iran in the development of a covert nuclear weapons program under the guise of a nuclear energy program.
Deripaska already had a history of paying U.S. politicians for political favors.
In 2003, former Sen. Bob Dole, the Republican Party presidential candidate in 1996, was paid $300,000 to assist Deripaska obtain a visa to visit the United States, according to an April 2007 report that was published in the Wall Street Journal.
In 2005, when the State Department reversed its conclusion that Deripaska was a criminal who had used bribery, intimidation and violence to amass his aluminum-based fortune in Russia, Dole was paid another $260,000 to reward him for getting Deripaska a multi-visit visa to the U.S.
The same Wall Street Journal article reported Manafort had received fees and donations from Ukrainian billionaire Rinat Akhmetov, reputedly Yanukovich’s political patron.
Manafort served as a media consultant to Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign.
In July 2007, the State Department again reversed its decision, cancelling Deripaska’s visa over continuing concerns he remained connected with the Russian mafia.
At the time, Deripaska was rumored to be at the center of a possible bid to buy ailing DaimlerChrysler.
Media wishing to interview the author of this article, please e-mail Tim Bueler.