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Americans Dash Through Rain to McCain's London Fundraiser

By Michael D. Shear
LONDON -- Sen. John McCain took a break from meetings with high-level government officials in Europe and the Middle East this afternoon for a good, old-fashioned $1,000 to $2,300 presidential fundraiser in the heart of downtown London.

McCain spent more than two hours in the stately, 18th-century stone palace that once served as a home to the Spencers, of Diana fame. Located at the end of a private cul-de-sac, the house now serves part time as an exclusive locale for such functions. (Its website calls it "an elegant backdrop for civil weddings, wedding receptions, musical evenings, lectures and press presentations.")

Guests arrived in -- what else -- drizzling, cold rain under umbrellas for the luncheon event, which featured fish on a bed of spinach, duck salad and an ice cream flambe with raspberry sauce, according to one of the guests.

"It was great food," said Cathy Manganelli, of New York, who was there with her husband, Ray Manganelli, and their 16-year-old son, Chris.

Aides refused to talk about the fundraiser, or to say how much money was raised, and McCain dashed through the rain away from reporters after emerging. One guest said there were about 100 people at the luncheon. If they all gave the maximum, the event would have raised about $230,000 for the campaign.

Manganelli said McCain opened the fundraiser by talking about the souring U.S. economy, but the discussion soon shifted to foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, where McCain spent much of the last week. He discussed Iraq, Iran, North Korea and global warming, according to Ray Manganelli.

The Arizona senator has said repeatedly that his trip abroad this week is not a campaign event. Rather, he insists, it is a fact-finding mission typical of those he has long conducted as a senior member of the Armed Services Committee. The trip is being paid for by the U.S. government.

Aides said they and the senator met with ethics committee officials before the trip and were assured that McCain could hold a presidential fundraiser as long as Senate staffers did not attend and no government resources were used to conduct it.

Senate spokeswoman Melissa Shuffield, who sat at a nearby hotel while the fundraiser took place, said McCain was paying for his hotel room in London and the cost of the flight to London in order to comply with the ethics rules.

As noted earlier by Post reporter Matthew Mosk, an invitation sent out by the campaign says the fundraiser was organized "by kind permission of Lord Rothschild OM GBE and the Hon. Nathaniel Rothschild." Attire was listed as "lounge suits."

Ray Manganelli, who works in private equity, said he contacted the McCain campaign when he realized his family would be vacationing in London today.

"The reason I brought my son today was because this is a person who I really believe you can look up to," Manganelli said. "t comes down to the character issue. When you look at your son in the eye at night and you talk about that, I think, ultimately, our politicians should be role models in the way that they conduct their own lives."

Democrats in London hastily organized a "counter-rally" at London's Westminster Arms, saying that McCain "does not represent the views of the majority of Americans." But Manganelli said he thinks McCain will win by appealing to Republicans like himself and to others who are drawn to his war record and integrity.

"It doesn't matter which side of the aisle," Manganelli said. "What unites us is integrity and courage."

By Web Politics Editor  |  March 20, 2008; 2:28 PM ET
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