(T)he Washington Post’s James Grimaldi published a fairly damning piece suggesting, with a good deal of evidence, that John and Cindy McCain were beneficiaries of special treatment from Verizon and AT&T—the implication being that the companies had sought to curry favor with the former Senate Commerce committee chairman by erecting cell phone towers at the McCains’ remote Arizona ranch.
McCain spokesman Brian Rogers responded that the towers were temporary, the result of a Secret Service request and, while conceding that Cindy McCain had made a separate, earlier request for the towers that predated her husband’s status as Republican presidential nominee, added, “Mrs. McCain's staff went through the Website as any member of the general public would—no string pulling, no phone calls, no involvement of Senate staff.” Today, a Verizon spokesman, Jeffrey Nelson, took greater umbrage, attacking the Post story as “wrong” and stating that the company, after studying McCain’s request, decided in August not to install a permanent tower at the ranch. “It doesn’t make business sense for us to do that,” Nelson told the Post.
So is this an innocent mix-up, or did McCain get special treatment from Verizon? The Post piece points out that Verizon’s CEO Ivan G. Seidenberg is a McCain bundler who has raised more than $1.3 million, and the company’s head Washington lobbyist, Robert Fisher, is a former McCain staffer. That alone is intriguing, but not, of course, evidence of any wrongdoing. But putting up a cell phone tower is a process that entails many legal and regulatory hurdles that create a lengthy public record (some of which Grimaldi draws on for his piece). And the closer you look, the less satisfying McCain’s—and especially Verizon’s—account of the towers turns out to be. Whatever its motivation, Verizon plainly went to considerable effort and expense to pursue building a permanent tower on the McCains’ ranch.
The Huffington Post has a letter from the contractor, contradicting McCain's spin on the controversy. I could be wrong, but it seems like a gift like this should be reported (according to sources, it is not, but there's an awful lot of donations from telecoms as well as former telecom lobbyists on staff).