Caller Stumps McCain on Aide’s Shady Doings

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I frankly find this unbelievable.

Monday, we reported that John McCain’s new senior aide Terry Nelson had a checkered past – he was involved with Tom DeLay and his co-defendants in their effort to get around Texas campaign finance laws and tied to the New Hampshire phone jamming scandal.

Yesterday, as part of his tour out West, McCain visited talk radio host John Carlson in Seattle. And one intrepid caller (a TPMmuckraker reader?) used the opportunity to get McCain on the record. You can listen to the audio of the call here, for which we have the blog TalkCheck to thank.

CALLER: Thanks, I had a question for the senator. For a reformer, I’m kind of curious why he would hire a guy like Terry Nelson as a senior advisor.

Here’s a guy who was actually in the indictment of DeLay on his money laundering charges. When he was at the RNC, he agreed to take the corporate contributions from DeLay’s PAC and then recycle them back into the Republican congressional races.

And he was also, this guy Nelson was also the supervisor of James Tobin, who was the guy convicted last year for helping jam the Democratic get-out-the-vote lines in New England a couple years ago.

So I’m curious why would you hire someone with such a shady background?

MCCAIN: None of those charges are true.

CALLER: You don’t believe what was actually written in the indictment from Texas?

MCCAIN: No.

CARLSON: All right.

[nervous laughter]

MCCAIN: I will check it out. But I’ve never heard of such a thing. I know that he was a grassroots organizer for President Bush year 2000 and 2004, and had a very important job in the Bush campaign as late as 2004, but the other charges I will go and look and see if any of them are true, but I’ve never heard of them before.

You might be skeptical that McCain was actually ignorant of Nelson’s past, but when I spoke to Carlson’s producer Dave Carson, he said that McCain seemed “surprised” by the call and that afterwards he “started asking his handlers” what all this was about. So that might be true.

I’m not sure what would be worse – if McCain actually was ignorant or just pretending. In either case, it would be yet another page out of the Bush playbook.