McCain’s Forgotten Drug Fix

Amongst all the media teeth-gnashing over the question of whether McCain did special favors for his blondie lobbyist,  his wife’s sweetheart deal for massive narcotics theft in the 1990s has been forgotten.

If a poor black woman from Anacostia had committed the crimes that Cindy McCain committed, the black woman might have been sent to prison for the duration of her life.

John McCain has never shown any courage on the drug war.  As long as people like his wife don’t need to fear jail time for crimes, there is no reason to reform the law to cease the persecution of other Americans.  

Here are the details from an article I wrote for Playboy in 1997.  The McCain excerpt is about a third of the way down, in bold. 

Re-reading the article, it is from a whole different era — one in which it was acceptable to joke about hanging politicians.

Playboy April, 1997


by James Bovard 

    Justice has a double standard 

    God bless the war on drugs. It has given us rhetorical overkill: politicians calling for drug users to be taken out and shot. Who can forget when former drug czar William Bennett endorsed the beheading of drug dealers? 

    It has also given us a new scheme of family values and tough love: Uncle Sam–not father–knows best. If you can’t keep your kids off drugs, the government will. Washington has churned out law after law mandating harsher penalties and longer prison terms for anyone involved with illicit substances. The war on drugs has resulted in the imprisonment of more than 300,000 people during the past decade. In 1995 the average federal sentence for “low-level” drug-trafficking offenders, according to the Department of Justice, was 70.5 months (of which a prisoner will typically serve nearly five years). The war on drugs has destroyed families across the nation or, should we say, it has destroyed some families. 

    For all the tough talk and tough love, what happens when the wayward sons, daughters and spouses of politicians run afoul of the law? As many well-connected Washingtonians suddenly remember, sometimes the highest element of justice is mercy. 

      * In June 1993 Richard Riley Jr., son of Education Secretary Richard Riley, received a sentence of six months’ house arrest for conspiring to sell up to 25 grams of cocaine and 100 grams of marijuana. Seven months earlier Riley had been indicted by a federal grand jury in Greenville, South Carolina and charged, along with 18 others, with distributing cocaine and marijuana, conspiring to possess cocaine and marijuana and conspiring to possess those drugs with the intent to distribute them. The initial charges carried a penalty often years to life in prison. Riley’s light sentence allowed him to continue his work at an environmental consulting firm, helping to do good deeds and save the world. Riley Sr. has since become one of the most prominent antidrug spokesmen of the Clinton administration.

    * In June 1990 Gayle Rosten, the daughter of then-House Ways and Means Committee chairman Dan Rostenkowski (D-III.), was busted and charged with possession of 29 grams of cocaine with intent to deliver. Rosten could have been sentenced to up to 15 years in prison, but she pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and instead was sentenced to three years’ probation and 20 hours of public service. She paid a fine of $2800 and forfeited the car in which the cocaine was found when she was arrested. 

    Three years later Rosten was busted again after police found a gram of cocaine in her possession; her car had been searched after she allegedly ran a stop sign. Since Rosten was still on probation from the earlier conviction, she could have been sentenced to up to three years in prison. Chicago Narcotics Court Judge Oliver Spurlock dismissed the charge against Rosten, giving no reason for his decision to set her free. The charge was reinstated after Rosten was indicted by a county grand jury. On April 12, 1994 Cook County Circuit Judge Michael Toomin ruled that the search of Rosten had been illegal, yet ruled that packets containing cocaine supposedly “dropped” by two passengers in her car was admissible evidence–against the passengers. Rosten walked again. 

    * Cindy McCain, the wife of Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), admitted stealing Percocet and Vicodin from the American Voluntary Medical Team, an organization that aids Third World countries. Percocet and Vicodin are schedule 2 drugs, in the same legal category as opium. Each pill theft carries a penalty of one year in prison and a monetary fine. McCain stole the pills over several years. She became addicted to the drugs after undergoing back surgery. 

    But rather than face prosecution, McCain was allowed to enter a pretrial diversion program and escaped with no blemish on her record. McCain did suffer from the incident, though: Shortly after the scandal broke, a Variety Club of Arizona ceremony at which she was to receive a humanitarian of the year award for her work with the medical team was canceled because of poor ticket sales

    As one editorial writer in The Arizona Republic noted: “Conservative Republicans seemed to achieve some sort of drug-rehab epiphany when Ms. McCain made her announcement. Politicians who had never uttered a single positive sentence about drug-prevention, -rehabilitation or -diversion programs suddenly thought they were just fine. Newspapers that often used words such as drug addict and thug as describing the same person suddenly had a new sensitivity to the problem. It seems that when Bill Clinton proposes significant drug rehabilitation and diversion, it is called a failed social program of the Sixties. When Cindy McCain needs one of those programs, they suddenly became an essential ingredient in fighting drug use.” 

    * Dan Burton II, the 18-year-old son of Representative Dan Burton (R-Ind.), was busted in January 1994 in Louisiana on charges of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute while allegedly transporting seven pounds of pot in a car from Texas to Indiana. According to the Baton Rouge Advocate, Burton and a friend “[allegedly] told agents that they heard marijuana was cheap in Houston, where they allegedly purchased the pot. The pair were coming from Houston, where they paid $6000 for the drugs.” Even though Burton was involved in an interstate crime, his case was handled solely by officials in Louisiana. He pleaded guilty to felony charges of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, and, instead of facing ten to 16 months in federal prison, Burton was sentenced to only five years’ probation, 2000 hours of community service, three years of house arrest and random drug screening. After the arrest was made public, Congressman Burton declared: “Any time one of your children gets into this kind of trouble, it’s horrible for the parents and for the whole family.” Five months later young Burton was busted again after police found 30 marijuana plants in his apartment in Indianapolis. They also found a shotgun. Under federal mandatory-minimum rules, that should have guaranteed him at least five years in federal prison, as well as a year or more for his arrest while on probation for a previous drug charge. However, the case was again processed in the state system, where the penalties are significantly lighter. In a federal case, 30 pot plants are the equiva- lent of three kilograms of dope. State prosecutors decided that the total weight of the marijuana from the 30 plants was 25 grams, thus reducing the charge to a misdemeanor. 

    Under an agreement whereby Burton pleaded guilty to the charges in Louisiana, an Indiana prosecutor threw out all charges against him, saying, “I didn’t see any sense in putting him on probation a second time.” Once again, Dan II walked–unlike the roughly 37,000 other Americans in prison for marijuana crimeS. 

    * In 1993 John Murtha, the 35-year-old son of Representative John Murtha (D-Pa.), received a sentence of 11 to 23 months in jail after pleading guilty to selling a gram of cocaine to a narc. Murtha had been busted for two burglaries in 1980 and for armed robbery in 1985. He had served four years in prison and was on parole at the time of his arrest. He could have faced more than ten years in prison if he’d been prosecuted under federal guidelines. Had the crime occurred in a “three-strikes-and-you’re-out” state, he would have faced life imprisonment. 

    According to the Pittsburgh PostGazette, the judge allowed Murtha to temporarily withdraw a plea bargain and resubmit it at a later date so he could enter the jail’s school-release program and continue his education. The judge felt that a college degree would offer Murtha a Better chance at rehabilitation. 

    * On August 16, 1991 Susan Gallo, the 33-year-old daughter of Representative Dean Gallo (R-N.J.), was busted for her supposed role in a drug ring that sold $16,000 worth of cocaine to narcotics agents. Gallo was charged with five counts of cocaine possession, five counts of intent to distribute, five counts of distribution and five counts of conspiracy. Each charge could have carried a sentence of five to ten years in prison. In December 1991 she pleaded guilty to one count of distribution and one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine. At the same time, her father announced she had just completed a drug-rehab program and was living in a halfway house. The congressman announced, “I’m very proud of her effort to rehabilitate and her acknowledgment of the seriousness of her problem.” She was sentenced to five years’ probation in September 1992. 

    * Warren Bachus, the 19-year-old son of Congressman Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), was busted on June 19, 1993 for second-degree possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. Rather than being convicted and sentenced to jail, he was set free in a “pretrial diversion remedy.” Bachus had to pay $56 in court expenses and was required to submit twice to drug testing in the following six months. 

    * In 1993 Josef Hinchey, the 26-year-old son of Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), was busted along with more than a score of accomplices for allegedly running a drug ring in upstate New York. Hinchey was accused of possession with intent to distribute individual cocaine doses, a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison Hinchey pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and was sentenced to 13 months in prison, with the term suspended until he completed a drug-treatment program. 

    * Perhaps the most special treatment was granted to the son of Vice President Al Gore. It was reported in the foreign press that 13-year-old Al Gore III was caught smoking what appeared to be marijuana by school authorities at the exclusive St. Alban’s School. Al III was suspended as a result of the offense while his father managed to suppress the story. The Daily Telegraph of London noted: “The crusading American media and Washington’s political elite have closed ranks to protect Vice President Gore from embarrassment over his teenage son’s indiscretion.” If what young Gore was smoking was indeed marijuana and he had been busted for possession, that could have resulted in fingerprinting, mug shots and a drug-possession conviction on his juvenile record. 

    If we are going to fight a war on drugs, we should at least demand fairness. Let the children of the poor be judged by the same standard as the children of the rich and powerful. Instead of sending regular citizens to jail under harsh mandatory-minimum sentencing guidelines, let every citizen qualify for house arrest, pretrial diversion, work-study programs, community service and probation. Or hang all of them. All politicians, that is. 


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24 Responses to McCain’s Forgotten Drug Fix

  1. Kirk Muse February 23, 2008 at 6:59 pm #

    The above link is a story published in 1994 in the Phoenix New Times.

  2. Mace Price February 24, 2008 at 7:49 am #

    …Say what ya want about John “Killer” McCain not to mention the 100+ year old “War on Drugs.” But once in power; if the former lives up to his reputation as an unpredictable, ungovernable, impulsive and belligerent little sonofabitch?—He’ll not only be impossible to intimidate—But may well try and put The Israel Lobby and key personnel within The Foreign Policy Establishment precisely where he put Fat Jack Abramoff and his crew back in Aug ’05…Namely out of business. We’ll find out because like it or not—He’s going come ’09

  3. Original Steve February 24, 2008 at 5:26 pm #

    …but Mace it might take “100 Years in Iraq” to find out?


  4. Mace Price February 24, 2008 at 5:48 pm #

    …Yeah, I know, ya gotta a Goddamn good point OS. But 8 months is equivalent to 8 light years in Politics and mendacity is the order of the day. That and McCain is, and has always been the unknown quantity. He might surprise the shit out of everyone. If he doesn’t? Well, then shame on me.

  5. Ryan February 24, 2008 at 9:00 pm #


    And some of us are making good use of this and the business about McCain and the Bonanno crime family ties he has up. The person in the link below even found some campaign contribution to John from the family.

    We’re bringing all this up much to the irritation to the true believers over at (T)Clown Hall.

    And then there’s Rick Renzi.

    (Hey! I forgot about that one. I need to bring it up for them to think about)

  6. Jim February 24, 2008 at 10:54 pm #

    The fact that McCain has run his campaign thus far as “Mr. Clean” is another damning indictment of the Establishment media.

    At least his Blondie Lobbyist scandal will make it more difficult for the media to paint McCain as a holy man.

    I posted part of this comment over at the blog and it is stirring up a bit of a ruckus there.

  7. Dirk W. Sabin February 25, 2008 at 12:40 pm #

    Whether its McCain, Hellery or Obama, the brazen power of the Executive validated by the current Administration is sure to provide the kind of government that selectively applies the law and blames the dysfunction on the runt remains of Congress.

    Anybody ever digest the amount of money we spend annually on prison operation and construction? Whee doggies but a fine testament to the glories of higher civilization

  8. The Infamous Oregon Lawhobbit February 25, 2008 at 1:14 pm #

    “At least his Blondie Lobbyist scandal will make it more difficult for the media to paint McCain as a holy man.”

    Unless, of course, they simply choose not to discuss it. 😀

  9. Mace Price February 25, 2008 at 4:36 pm #

    …With 2 million incarcerates in the US it could be argued that the “Glories of Civilization” are based on repression; and McCain ain’t no Holy man…quite the opposite in fact. That notwithstanding, get used to him because he’s the next “Unitary Executive.” Which in terms of Foreign Policy and/or War is really nothing new.

  10. Jean February 25, 2008 at 9:09 pm #

    Jim, I recently saw the movie, “American Gangster”, which was about drug king pin Frank Lucas. It turns out the movie had alot of fiction in it, but there was one line I thought summed up the whole drug war. “If the war on drugs ended, 100,000 people would be out of a job”.

    Steiger’s Law at work. The bureucracy becomes more important than it’s stated mission. Also, I would reccomend people to listen to Scott Horton’s interview with Chris Deliso, and Daniel Ellsburg. It seems alot of banks are heavily involved in the laundering of drug money, and with this housing bubble getting ready to burst, it maybe a welcome infusion of capital for these banks to surive. What a Cluster F(*&$!!

  11. Jim February 25, 2008 at 10:16 pm #

    Jean – I’ll try to catch that movie. Sounds like it would go great with a six-pack.

    Ellsburg has lots of excellent points. I just finished reading his memoir and will be tub-thumping on the blog soon about it.

  12. Jean February 25, 2008 at 10:24 pm #

    Jim, maybe you should have a 12 pack or a keg. The film lasts almost 3 hours. Also, I will be seeing you at the FFF conference in June. The first round of quality beer is on me.

  13. Mace Price February 26, 2008 at 12:42 am #

    …Wonder where the $18+ Billion that Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen estimates to be missing from the neo-Con’s Operation has been laundered?

  14. Marc February 26, 2008 at 1:28 am #

    Now now, calling it a double standard is unfair. Wouldn’t “statistical likelihood of receiving compassionate alternatives to prison” be a more neutral choice of words when describing the treatment of the politically connected by the criminal justice system?

  15. Dirk W. Sabin February 26, 2008 at 2:27 pm #

    Gee only $18 Billion, sounds like some has already been laundered on the way to Mr. Bowen’s “estimate”.

    Mishun Occomplished as they say. This neo-Arbusto Operation brought to you by the best politicians money can by. This alone points to the tragedy of inflation.

  16. Mace Price March 2, 2008 at 9:58 pm #

    …Lo ciento mucho, pero no mi hablar Portugués muy bien.

  17. Jim March 2, 2008 at 11:03 pm #

    My Portuguese is even more anemic than my French, so I won’t hazard a guess.

    But it is a link from Brazil, so I figured it must be good.

  18. This Blog 'jimbovard' should have this Signature March 7, 2008 at 2:42 pm #

    “A Republican Neoconservative government that respects no limits on its power is a ticking time bomb, waiting to destroy the rights it was created to protect.”

  19. pmac July 19, 2008 at 11:41 pm #

    new research has proven marijuana can and has stopped the growth of tumor cells and blocked thier ability to attach to host cells . plus it has stopped the spread of breast cancer . I wonder how many people will die before we quit listening to the people still looking for those weapons of mass distruction .

  20. jack110 December 15, 2008 at 4:44 pm #

    Marijuana is a killer drug which is very hazardous to a human body. It has very bad effects on people but still they do not leave their habit

    arizona drug rehab

  21. drug addiction recovery June 22, 2010 at 9:57 am #

    There are definite advantages to being politically connected.
    The politically powerful can always find means to mitigate sanctions.


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