Cindy McCain's Past

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Providing you more information on the candidates and their families and people in glass houses who may throw stones.

In 1989, Cindy McCain became addicted to opioid painkillers such as Percocet and Vicodin. She later attributed her addiction to pain following two spinal surgeries for ruptured discs as well as emotional stress during her husband's entanglement in the Keating Five scandal of that time, which also involved her role as a bookkeeper who had difficulty finding receipts of Keating-related expenses. The addiction progressed to the point where she resorted to stealing drugs from her own AVMT. During 1992, Tom Gosinski, the director of government and international affairs for AVMT, discovered her drug theft. Subsequently in 1992, McCain's parents staged an intervention to force her to get help; she told her husband about her problem, attended a drug treatment facility, began outpatient sessions, and ended her three years of addiction; a hysterectomy in 1993 resolved her back pain. In January 1993, McCain terminated Gosinski's employment on grounds of budgetary reasons. In spring 1993, Gosinski tipped off the Drug Enforcement Administration to investigate McCain's drug theft. Her activities violated federal statutes, so a federal investigation was conducted. McCain's defense team, led by Washington lawyer John Dowd, secured an agreement with the U.S. Attorney's office that limited her punishment to financial restitution and enrollment in a diversion program, without anything being made public.

Meanwhile, in early 1994 Gosinski filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against McCain, which he told her he would settle for $250,000. In April 1994, Dowd requested that Maricopa County officials investigate Gosinski for extortion. At this point, the Phoenix New Times was preparing a negatively-cast story about the whole affair and was about to publish it. Cindy McCain pre-empted this by publicly revealing her past addiction, stating she hoped it would give fellow drug addicts courage in their struggles: "Although my conduct did not result in compromising any missions of AVMT, my actions were wrong, and I regret them." A flurry of press attention followed, including charges by Gosinski that she had asked him to lie concerning her drug use when the McCains were applying to adopt their baby from Bangladesh and statements by past AVMT employees that Gosinski had once threatened to blackmail her. A few weeks after her announcement, the Variety Club of Arizona canceled its Humanitarian of the Year award dinner in her honor citing poor ticket sales. In the end, both Gosinski's lawsuit and the extortion investigation against him were dropped. AVMT concluded its activities in 1995.

And the love story behind it all.

McCain was still married and living with his wife in 1979 while, according to The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof, "aggressively courting a 25-year-old woman who was as beautiful as she was rich." McCain divorced his wife, who had raised their three children while he was imprisoned in Vietnam, then launched his political career with his new wife's family money.

And where does McCain's money come from?

Less well-known is that she is chairwoman of Hensley, the nation's third-largest distributor of Anheuser-Busch (BUD, news, msgs) products. She also controls the McCain family portfolio, which is estimated at between $36.6 million and $53.4 million.

Sen. McCain reports his Navy pension of $57,000 as income but doesn't report any significant assets. Most of the family's wealth is tied up in Hensley, based in Arizona, as well as in accounts and trusts in the names of Cindy and the couple's children.

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