Did McCain Tamper with the Drug Enforcement Agency to Protect His Career?

by: Matt Stoller

Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 02:06

You can Digg this post here.  I have more video from Gosinski)

A whistleblower is coming forth against John and Cindy McCain, and the picture he is painting is not a pretty one.  You've probably heard about Cindy McCain stealing prescription drugs from her charity in the 1990s.  Today, Tom Gosinski, her former employee and a close friend of the McCain's, came out on the record about the entire sordid episode.  And it appears that McCain used his Senate staff and resources to cover up Cindy's drug use, and potentially to prevent the Drug Enforcement Agency from investigating his wife's theft of illegal prescription drugs.  John McCain certainly used his political connections to begin a campaign of intimidation against Gosinski, because at the time - this was after the Keating 5 scandal - another major scandal would have derailed his career.  Gosinski stayed quiet out of fear until today; a recent fight with cancer has strengthened his resolve.  As he told me today, if he can beat cancer, he can go on the record regarding how the McCain's do business.

Matt Stoller :: Did McCain Tamper with the Drug Enforcement Agency to Protect His Career?
Gosinski was an employee of Cindy McCain who helped her run her charity, the American Voluntary Medical Team (AVMT) in the early to mid-1990s.  At the time Gosinski worked for her, Cindy McCain was addicted to prescription painkillers, taking between 30-50 pills a day of Vicatem and/or Percocet.  She had doctors writing out prescriptions in other peoples' names, including Gosinski.  When Gosinski found one of the prescription slips, he got angry, and Cindy had him fired.  This part of the story is just kind of sad, but not damning; Cindy McCain was a lonely and bored wife who turned to drugs in place of what was a loveless marriage full of fundraisers and in all likelihood, various infidelities (or so were the rumors Gosinski heard at the time).  

Now, it begins to get dangerous and vicious after Gosinksi was fired.  At first the McCain's said they'd help him find a job, but it became clear to Gosinksi that McCain was using his political connections to blackball him from another job in Republican politics in Arizona.  So he sued the McCain's for wrongful termination, and went to the Drug Enforcement Agency to find out the legal repercussions of having prescriptions for painkillers written in his name.  To retaliate, McCain then had his political ally, Rick Romley, open an extortion investigation against Gosinksi.  In the course of that investigation, it was revealed that the DEA was circling around Cindy McCain and her charity.  It's not clear what they were investigating her for, but it is clear she was bringing illegal prescription drugs around the world on a diplomatic passport secured for her by McCain's Senate office.

McCain's Senate staff and Senate resources were intimately involved in Cindy's work with the charity.  John McCain procured her a diplomatic passport, which meant that her bags were not searched by customs, and Mark Salter and Torie Clarke were both coordinating with Gosinski on logistics for the trips abroad.  Here's Gosinski on the coordination with McCain's Senate staff.

The charity was supposed to conduct medical missions abroad, but Cindy was also stealing from the charity's supply of drugs for her own personal use.  In August of 1994, the story was going to come out, and so John McCain came out with his side of the story.  He claimed he didn't know that Cindy McCain was using drugs until 1994, a clear lie.  Cindy McCain overdosed in 1991, and John McCain went to the hospital in Sedona and told the hospital staff not to make the information about Cindy public.  Gosinski heard about the overdose in 1992, after he began work for Cindy McCain.

There are lots of unanswered questions, but the basic contours of the story are clear.  John McCain used his position as a Senator to help his wife abuse illegal drugs and avoid being searched by customs, and somehow his wife managed to avoid any charges by the DEA or the state (which has mandatory minimums in cases like this) on drug charges despite ample evidence.  Did the DEA or the state not file charges against her because of political pressure?  Did they keep this on the Federal level to avoid mandatory minimums for Cindy McCain because of political pressure from McCain?  Did John McCain and/or his Senate staff tamper with a criminal investigation of his wife and her conspiracy to fraudulently obtain illegal drugs?

Whether illegal or not, and an investigation by Congress should happen, this is clearly a massive and overreaching case of both corruption on a personal sordid level and an abuse of power.  And you might be seeing Gosinski on mainstream media soon.

We need an investigation into what happened here.  What did McCain know about the investigation of his wife and did he use his power as a Senator to help her abuse drugs or avoid prosecution?  When he was one of a hundred Senators, it was of minor importance.  And now?  Well it would be nice to know if the next President is engaged in behavior more characteristic of an influence peddling mob boss than an upright politician.

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certainly very troubling (4.00 / 1)
This is a very important story.  Thank you Matt.

New Jersey politics at Blue Jersey.

yes, yes, YES! (0.00 / 0)
Absolutely excellent.

Nobody knows about Cindy McCain's pill-popping history. The more people that do, the more people think about her, McCain will be hurting. She is a symbol of everything corrupt about him, everything the MAVERICK image he cultivates is a denial of. John McCain is a known quantity or whatever, he can play the part, Cindy can't.

If this doesn't get on the news, I'll give to whatever 527 would put it on the air.

I'm not sold ... (4.00 / 1)
Look, I get it that McCain is a corrupt bastard who abuses his power in stunning displays of hypocrisy.

... BUT ... I don't think this story is the vehicle to sell this narrative.  

I know that if someone I loved were a drug addict, I would do anything I could, legal or possibly otherwise, to help them.  I suspect other people feel the same, and would only see what McCain did as a loving husband trying (even in error) to protect his wife.  I get that McCain was covering it up for political reasons, and that enabling an addict is not helping them, but I don't think this is how it will play to middle Amurka.

It will play like an attack on a (female) family member, and they will spin it as "how dare you attack a poor woman who went through hard times and has admitted it."  All the corruption that went into the cover-up will be ignored, because the drug-addict part of the narrative is too strong.

And as far as that goes, no one cared that Limbaugh was an addict, and he was the biggest hypocrite on record about it.  IOKIYAR.

Republicans can't fix our country; they're too busy saddlebacking.

[ Parent ]
Let them spin this (4.00 / 4)
as an attack on a poor innocent woman. They'll spin anything as an attack on a poor innocent woman, including using the phrase 'I spent years abroad.'

Mrs. McCain isn't important. The questions are:

"Did John McCain use his position to blackball a guy who was already victimized by having his name put on illegal prescriptions?"

"Did John McCain use his position as a Senator to help an addict abuse illegal drugs and avoid being searched by customs?"

"Did John McCain and/or his Senate staff tamper with a criminal investigation for personal reasons?"

Maybe we'd all do that; God knows there's nothing I wouldn't do for my kid. I'd steal your last dollar if I had to. Doesn't make it legal. And I'm not running for President.

I think beyond the partisan politics--and I'm not certain this would be a net benefit to us--this is actually kinda important just as the sorta thing voters should know.

As president, would McCain put country first? Or does he put his campaign first, his family second, his party third, and his Ambien fourth?

[ Parent ]
Good point (4.00 / 2)
To me, the questions you ask are not anything that the general public cares about (see Bush et al).  No one cares anymore when politicians abuse their positions of power for personal gain.  (Not endorsing this position of course, I'm just saying!)

However, I think attacking the "Country First" messaging is brilliant.  I think this is the only angle where this could play out positively for us -- McCain only puts country and the rule of law first when it is not personally inconvenient to him.

Republicans can't fix our country; they're too busy saddlebacking.

[ Parent ]
Yeah, you're probably right (4.00 / 2)
What's that Lily Tomlin quote? "No matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up."

I still sometimes catching myself thinking, re. the Republicans, 'They can't do that. It's illegal!'

Then I remember.

[ Parent ]
Regrettably, I Agree. . . (0.00 / 0)
. . . with you, Ms. Bluezone.

The public will think McCain's being gallant trying to protect his wife.

It doesn't care about fraud and corruption. Really, it doesn't. If the stories didn't have so many legal ins and outs and didn't seem like minor infractions or legalistic technicalities they might though.

Yes, perhaps the country second theme might work.

Thank are still due Matt for disseminating this story. I remember reading the original Gosinski story a few months ago, in which Gosinski pulled his punches somewhat. Good to see him swinging more freely.

[ Parent ]
Get the sense of McCain's idea (0.00 / 0)
of the rule of law: Good for thee, but not for me.

Unfortunately, Bartleby only turns up quotations (long, even full, passages even) from Greek classics, the Bible and Shakespeare, but it is my overall first impresstion.

[ Parent ]
Rule of Law (4.00 / 1)
You write: "I know that if someone I loved were a drug addict, I would do anything I could, legal or possibly otherwise, to help them.  I suspect other people feel the same, and would only see what McCain did as a loving husband trying (even in error) to protect his wife."

Sure enough.  But breaking the law is breaking the law, ain't it?  

Where does McCain stand on mandatory minimum sentencing for drug crimes?  

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
I would point out the hypocrisy (0.00 / 0)
of his stance on drug laws, lack of treatment options and coverage for addicts, etc., if this story gets traction.

[ Parent ]
Yeah (0.00 / 0)
I was wondering about his drug crimes positions myself.  If he's all about the "law and order" of drug-related crimes, then he's even more of a hypocrite than before.

However, Limbaugh, IIRC, was all about this and no one cared.

I totally get that there's a difference between being Jane Schmoe and breaking the law and being a presidential candidate and breaking the law; I just think that a lot of people will be able to put themselves in his shoes and will feel empathy.

Doesn't make it right what he did, because he's a bastard, but it does make it an extremely delicate spin to have it not come back and bite us in the ass.

That's all I'm saying.

Republicans can't fix our country; they're too busy saddlebacking.

[ Parent ]
Fine, let them feel empathy (4.00 / 1)
"I just think that a lot of people will be able to put themselves in his shoes and will feel empathy. "

maybe that feeling will fade a bit when they realize that Senator McCain used his political position to see to it that his wife got special treatment that shielded her from the same kind of mandatory minimum sentences that put "a lot of people" behind bars for the same crimes.

Its a risk I'm willing to take.

If we don't point out the hypocrisy - who will?

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
How do they spin a (4.00 / 1)
a heiress worth 100 million $$ as a poor women being attacked? Do you really think with what they are doing with lipstick on a pig that people are gonna see "poor Cindy McCain" who will not even provide her tax files even though Democrats did.

Give it to a 527 who will run with it if the press does not.

Attack, Attack, Attack.

It is time for the gloves to come off. If they are going to fight dirty, then figure out how to fight back.

Besides, the poor man who was the victim here is dying, let him get it off of his conscious.  

[ Parent ]
anything to help them (4.00 / 1)
But that's precisely the question here.

First, if McCain knew of Cindy's addiction in 1991 (despite his public claim to have found out only in 1994), how could he not convince her to leave a position where she had easy access to drugs?

If he really did find out only in 1994, how could he have been so inattentive as to have been unaware of her hospitalizations for treatment in 1991 and 1992?

He knew about this diplomatic pouch as well. Didn't he realize the risk this posed to her as an addict? Why did he do nothing to keep it out of her hands?

Also, treatment for addiction usually stresses honesty and remorse about one's wrongdoing during the addiction. How does it help her recovery to ruin the career of a guy who played some part in bringing her condition to light? The McCains have Gosinski to thank for forcing her to confront her problem more seriously, by getting the DEA involved (even if Gosinski was only trying to protect himself legally by doing so: Cindy had placed him in jeopardy by using his name in getting fake prescriptions). Instead, John McCain tried to destroy him.

Gosinski played a part in helping Cindy get well. McCain's use of his office, though, may very well have done her harm. To me it looks like John McCain wasn't trying to help anyone but himself.

[ Parent ]
I totally agree. (0.00 / 0)
You have summarized the issues well here.  My point is only that I don't think the public will care about the wrongdoing; they will put it under the general umbrella of "McCain protects his wife."

Republicans can't fix our country; they're too busy saddlebacking.

[ Parent ]
John McCain protected his wife (4.00 / 1)
from the very same laws he championed and supported.

He protected HIS wife, but NOT your spouse, or child, or parent. Just HIS family.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
Ditto, ditto, ditto (0.00 / 0)
Fantastic smear. Truly fabulous. I especially liked the part about the unsubstantiated rumors of McCain infidelities. Such bravery. Such courage it took to print that.

Maybe if you're lucky, you can track down some bimbo who will say McCain swings both ways. Now wouldn't THAT be a coup for your guys!

[ Parent ]
What if? (4.00 / 2)
Excellent report.  It's amazing that the major news outlets haven't picked this up.  If this were about Barack and Michelle Obama or Bill and Hillary Clinton, is there any doubt that the media would have pounced on this story?

I'm not sure ... (0.00 / 0)
The story is known and had been reported in some media at the time. Unless that Gosinski guy is coming up with new elements, I doubt there's anything more to say on the legal side.

But the story definitely sheds a different light on McCain 's righteous-maverick image as well as the strange marriage he's got into after dumping his first wife somewhat disgraciously.

Add the "C**t" episode and you get an idea of what freak-ish "first couple" would be in the white house, would McCain win the election.

[ Parent ]
El Oh El (0.00 / 0)
"It's amazing that the major news outlets haven't picked this up."

What would be amazing and unprecedented would be if they would pick it up.

[ Parent ]
Matt, this is your own reporting? (4.00 / 1)
If so, is this being sent to national media?

The Latest New Yorker (4.00 / 2)
has an article about Cindy by Ariel Levy which discusses this, as well as the John-Cindy adultery.

I don't think it'd make a difference (0.00 / 0)
...if the story made it to the mainstream media.  Yeah, if they treated it the same as they would if McCain were a Democrat, it'd probably swing the election.  But the press isn't going to do that to a Republican, and certainly not to John McCain.  

Short of that circus-freakshow level of media attention, I can't see a story like this changing many minds.  I mean honestly, as far as my imagination can take me, if I were in a position of power and could prevent my wife from going to prison, I'd do it, even if it meant breaking a few laws.  

Would I allow it to go on once I discovered her problem?  No, nor would I threaten anyone to keep it quiet or take action like firing and blackballing a friend--or anybody.  But again those are the points that would never seep into the media coverage, so I'd bet most people whose minds aren't firmly made up would probably read it as McCain simply protecting his wife.  Noboby who can stand their spouse would fail to keep them out of prison if they could, at least not over a matter of substance abuse.

The Wages of Sin is about $5.15 an Hour.

I'm uneasy about this... (4.00 / 1)
Back early in the campaign, Obama said in an interview "Lay off my wife ....". Surprisingly, they did lay off his wife.

My own gut feel was that Obama was hinting that if Michelle Obama was a target, the Cindy McCain was next in the firing line.

This story would break any such understanding, if there was one. Whatever about the news media, this should have about as much to do with the Presidential election as Sarah Palin's children.

As Ms Bluezone said above, if someone we loved was a drug addict, we would call in any favour we could to help them.

If the law has been violated, then let the law take its course.

Unless McCain starts zinging scurrilous propaganda at Michelle Obama, I'd say lay off Cindy McCain. Mrs McCain has been fairly anonymous in the campaign, lets leave her out.

[ Parent ]
People who would break the law (4.00 / 3)
to protect their law-breaking family members should not be President. Is the idea too "nuanced" for most Americans? Jesus, this country can be depressing.

[ Parent ]
Sadly (4.00 / 1)
I think it is too nuanced for most Americans.  I feel your pain.

Republicans can't fix our country; they're too busy saddlebacking.

[ Parent ]
I think you might be projecting (0.00 / 0)
Put the story out there and let your fellow citizens decide whether of not they are bright enough to get the "nuance".  

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
No one is asking the Obama campaign to raise the issue... (0.00 / 0)
If the press starts reporting this it actually gives Obama the chance to stay above the fray by reiterating the 'leave the families alone' frame.  The damage to McCain will have been done and Obama won't be in the instigator.

Ultimately, reporting and investigating this further is the media's job anyway and no amount of 'coordination' by the Obama camp will move this anywhere within that circle.  The media doesn't listen to Democrats only Drudge.

The lefty blogs are the bad guys in the national media/political circlejerk, Obama and most of the rest of the party distances themselves from the netroots, but it is important for Matt and others to keep up this important work.  Who knows what sorts of cats might get sprung by our intrepid bloggers?

[ Parent ]
Its not really about Cindy McCain (4.00 / 1)
Its about the hypocrisy of Senator McCain in being a strong advocate of the mandatory minimum drug sentences and the "rule of law", for every other American citizen other than his wife.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
abuse of power (4.00 / 1)
What do Michelle Obama or Sarah Palin's children have to do with abuse of power and obstruction of justice? In this case it is the corrupt and possibly illegal  actions of the candidate himself that are the issue. Apples and oranges. I can't believe this even needs to be pointed out.


[ Parent ]
"Nice to know if (0.00 / 0)
the next president..."  Ummm, I take umbrage with that statement.  He may be campaigning to be the next president, but it is by no means a foregone conclusion that he will be the next president.

Excellent work, Matt. (0.00 / 0)
Will the trad med cover it?

I can't hear anything (0.00 / 0)
the audio on the guy is too low. I have the YouTube volume all the way up and my macbook pro volume is all the way up too. can you jack up the levels!

Michael Bloomberg, prince of corporate welfare

leave out the personal stuff (4.00 / 1)
This part of the story is just kind of sad, but not damning; Cindy McCain was a lonely and bored wife who turned to drugs in place of what was a loveless marriage full of fundraisers and in all likelihood, various infidelities (or so were the rumors Gosinski heard at the time).

This is speculation and makes it seem more like a hit piece and less like journalism. We don't know why Cindy McCain turned to drugs, and speculating about the lovelessness of the marriage undermines the central points about abuse of power.

There's also a fine line here to be walked, progressives shouldn't be condemning drug addicts, at least not if we want to reform the prison-industrial complex.

Focus on John McCain here, not Cindy.

The focus is on Senator McCain's (0.00 / 0)
hypocrisy in supporting strong drug laws that do not apply to his family.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
Excellent work (4.00 / 1)
hopefully McCain's abuse of power gets the attention it deserves.

(The drug is called Vicodin, not Vicatem, btw.)

It's not about HER it's about HIM- ABUSE OF POWER (4.00 / 5)
No, you don't do anything to get your wife, kid, whatever from having consequences for their actions. She was stealing DEA numbers from doctors who donated their time. My doctor who delivered me in NY actually called up Tom and told him what Cindy was doing- he didn't want to lose his license- at least one doctor did.  She put other peoples lives at risk. But OK, fine. We all have our problems. The problem I have is what they did to Tom and the other doctors after she got caught. They slimed them and ruined their lives. And if McCain ABUSED his POWER and messed with the DEA, etc., Well, I'm kind of fed up with politicians who ABUSE THEIR POWER aren't you?

This is NOT about CINDY.

Steady stream of hypocrisy from McCain (4.00 / 2)
Strong advocate for tough drug laws, right up until its his family that is getting cuffed. The the link for some background on McCain's drug policies.


Why the hypocrisy John?  Why not extend the same kind of privacy and treatment to every drug addict?

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

This feels stale (4.00 / 1)
The expiration date on this thing feels long past. Cindy is an ancillary element to the current race. She strikes me as being kind of out of it, actually. Flat-affect. She is not a high-profile target.

The guy's waiting this long to come forward and complain? Zzzzzz. The McCain team will tear him apart--something tells me holes in his story abound.

Combine that with Cindy's harmless, smiling, background trophy wife vibe and I do not get goosebumps over this story.

The Obama people, clearly, won't touch it. (Not that they would touch video footage of McCain robbing a bank and then setting fire to a crowded orphanage right before accepting the R nomination, either.)

But I heartily urge the blogosphere to run with it! Who knows what will percolate up into the bigger media currents! Hooray for loony pill-popping heiresses!

Hypocrisy is never an ancillary issue (0.00 / 0)
in my humble opinion.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
If this had happened in this century ... (0.00 / 0)
...it might make for a good place to focus. But, as power abuses go, it's small potatoes and it's ancient. Surely our resources for taking down McCain-Palin could find a better home.

I think the theme of hypocrisy in the McCain campaign (4.00 / 1)
is right in tune with this story.

Besides, McCain's campaign advisor said they want a campaign based on personality and emotion - why not give it to 'em?

Senator McCain used his political position to cover up for his wife's drug addiction and theft of drugs from a charity, while taking a strong stand to send YOUR spouse to jail for the same crimes. Regardless of which century it is, that's pretty a pretty shameful display of arrogance and entitlement, no?

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
it's about the abuse of power (4.00 / 1)
McCain abuses power.

Palin abuses power.

Bush abuses power.

And then we bring up the Keating scandal again - another abuse of power.

TrooperGate Isn't Stale (0.00 / 0)
There's a reason McCain put out an ad claiming Obama sent 30 lawyers to Alaska.

Congratuations, Matt (0.00 / 0)
You've taken this blog to a whole new level.  Kudos.

It is of cumulative importance (0.00 / 0)
The story can be told without the added drama to demonstrate that:

1) Gosinski's name was used illegally to obtain drugs illegally;

2) He was fired and harrassed for complaining about the theft of his name;

3) McCain enabled her drug abuse and also covered up for her.

It's important as part of the narrative that he's God's little reformer angel.

But the drug abuse angle will fall flat as the public's way more tolerant of pharmaceuticals than even pot. Obviously, the McCain response would be to point out Obama's teen experimentation with the 'worse' stuff.

Never overestimate the public. PT Barnum didn't.

Its like the Pit Bull without Lipstick (0.00 / 0)
Same vindictivness at the heart.

Same "career before law" attitude.

Same F'd Up family values.

Its not about drug abuse - its about Abuse of Power.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
TYPO: It's spelled "VICODIN" (0.00 / 0)
"Cindy McCain was addicted to prescription painkillers, taking between 30-50 pills a day of Vicatem and/or Percocet."

AFAIK, there is no such thing as "Vicatem."  I'm pretty sure what you're referring to is the well-known drug-o-abuse (o yeh, and prescription painkiller) Vicodin, another in the synthetic opioid series.  

I guess in a way it's a good thing that you don't know how to spell it, but still -- it does leave you open to challenges on credibility.

(Your pharmacology lesson for the day:  Percocet, Percodan, Vicodin, are all entry-level OxyContins.  And yes, potentially very addictive, and not just to people with loveless marriages.  Anyone with long-term major pain  -- back injuries, post-op pain, etc -- has to be careful with the use of these powerful narcotics.  The fear that most of the medical community has had for a long time, and the reluctance to use such painkillers when they were called for, was, and is, an overreaction.  But it's not made up from nothing.  These are potentially dangerous products and need to be used with respect.  Just ask Rush.)


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