Busted!

Last week, TPM and other news outlets were looking into whether McCain campaign manager Rick Davis had really cut his ties to the mega-lobby shop, Davis Manafort — of which he is a part owner. Even though Davis insisted he was no longer drawing any salary from the firm, what David Kurtz and I were wondering was whether Davis had somehow redirected his salary to some other entity from which he could later profit from it or draw it back. Well, it seems Newsweek has finally caught up with Davis’s flimflam

The McCain campaign told reporters the fees were irrelevant because Davis “separated from his consulting firm … in 2006,” according to the campaign’s Web site, and he stopped drawing a salary from it. In fact, however, when Davis joined the campaign in January 2007, he asked that his $20,000-a-month salary be paid directly to Davis Manafort, two sources who asked not to be identified discussing internal campaign business told NEWSWEEK. Federal campaign records show the McCain campaign paid Davis Manafort $90,000 through July 2007, when a cash crunch prompted Davis and other top campaign officials to forgo their salaries and work as volunteers. Separately, another entity created and partly owned by Davis–an Internet firm called 3eDC, whose address was the same office building as Davis Manafort’s–received payments from the McCain campaign for Web services, collecting $971,860 through March 2008.

In an e-mail to NEWSWEEK, a senior McCain official said that when the campaign began last year, it signed a contract with Davis Manafort “in which we purchased all of [Davis’s] time, and he agreed not to work for any other clients.”

Frankly, it’s even more convoluted than I’d imagined. But the McCain campaign’s claim that anything done by Davis Manafort is irrelevant to the campaign since no one at the campaign has any tie to the firm now seems pretty ridiculous.

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