More Questions About a McCain Bundler
By Matthew Mosk
A new question has surfaced this morning surrounding the bundling activity of Harry Sargeant, the Florida Republican who has raised more than $500,000 for the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain -- was it legal for his foreign co-worker to solicit political contributions?
The Post first reported on Sargeant's efforts on behalf of McCain and other political candidates earlier this week. McCain's campaign has credited Sargeant for collecting dozens of $2,300 and $4,600 checks, many of them from ordinary families in California. The manager of several Taco Bell restaurants, an auto mechanic, and the one-time owners of a liquor store all wrote big checks, even though many were not registered to vote.
Sargeant told The New York Times this morning that he at times left the task of collecting the checks to a longtime business partner, Mustafa Abu Naba'a. The problem with that is that Abu Naba'a is not an American citizen. According to court records, Abu Naba'a is a dual citizen of Jordan and the Dominican Republic.
The law on this question appears to be unclear, said Fred Wertheimer, a campaign finance expert who runs the advocacy group, Democracy 21.
"There's probably very little law on this," Wertheimer said. "If it is not illegal for a foreign national to bundle checks, it ought to be, since it's illegal for a foreign national to make contributions in the first place."
Paul Ryan, a lawyer with the Campaign Legal Center, said the Federal Election Commission has not explicitly addressed the question. Ryan said there appeared to be conflicting thoughts on this in a 2004 advisory opinion. For instance, in one opinion the FEC has advised that it is permissible for a foreign national to solicit a contribution, while in another it prohibits foreign nationals from playing any role in participation in a candidate's election activities, such as decisions concerning the making of contributions.
"There's a little bit of tension between these two different interpretations," Ryan said.
Abu Naba'a holds a one-third share in Sargeant's business, the International Oil Trading Co., which has a contract with the Department of Defense to supply oil to the U.S. military in Iraq that could be worth as much as $1.4 billion. He and Sargeant are both defendants in a lawsuit by a third partner, Mohammad Andwar Farid Al-Saleh, a Jordanian. The suit alleges that Al-Saleh was defrauded out of his share of the proceeds from the business.
Sargeant called the lawsuit a "typical case among business people."
"I've been friends with Mohammed for 15 years," Sargeant said. "People always make allegations in lawsuits. It's purely a commercial dispute."
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