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Who Are These Maxed-out Mccain Donors, Exactly?

Matthew Mosk has a real eyebrow-raising article in the Washington Post today, looking into the activities of Harry Sargeant III, a Florida businessman whose oil-trading firm is being investigated for allegedly overcharging the U.S. military for fuel deliveries to Iraq--a contract that it somehow managed to obtain despite not having submitted the lowest bid for it. Sargeant also happens to be a McCain bundler who seems to have a knack for soliciting a whole bunch of $2,300 campaign contributions from random people who apparently have no knowledge of, or interest in, politics. The article makes no mention of any evidence of actual wrongdoing on the campaign-finance front--it would be illegal if the donors were reimbursed or compensated for their contributions--but there are some really strange and implausible-sounding explanations for how the money was raised:

Some of the most prolific givers in Sargeant's network live in modest homes in Southern California's Inland Empire. Most had never given a political contribution before being contacted by Sargeant or his associates. Most said they have never voiced much interest in politics. And in several instances, they had never registered to vote. And yet, records show, some families have ponied up as much as $18,400 for various candidates between December and March.

Both Sargeant and the donors were vague when asked to explain how Sargeant persuaded them to give away so much money.

"I have a lot of Arab business partners. I do a lot of business in the Middle East. I've got a lot of friends," Sargeant said in a telephone interview yesterday. "I ask my friends to support candidates that I think are worthy of supporting. They usually come through for me." ...

Ibrahim Marabeh, who is listed in public records as a Rite Aid manager, at first denied that he wrote any political checks. He then said he was asked by "a local person. But I would like not to talk about it anymore." Neither he nor his wife is registered to vote, but the two donated $4,600 to Clinton and $4,600 to Giuliani in December.

At the Twilight Hookah Lounge, owned by Nadia and Shawn Abdalla, patrons smoke tobacco flavored with honey and fruit from a menu that includes the strawberry-flavored Sex on the Beach and the strong, orange-flavored Fuzzy Navel.

The Abdallas, who are not registered to vote, said in an interview that they recalled writing a check to an organization in Miami, because a person with that organization was a friend of their mother's. They said they could not remember his name. ...

Abdullah Abdullah, a supervisor at several Taco Bell restaurants in the Riverside area, and his wife have donated $9,200 to McCain.

Reached at work, Abdullah said he knows little about the campaign. "I have no idea. I'll be honest with you," he said. "I'm involved in the restaurant business. My brother Faisal recommended John McCain. Whenever he makes a recommendation, we do it."

Faisal Abdullah, 49, said he helped organize all of the contributions from members of his family. When he was asked who solicited the contributions from him, he said: "Why does it matter who? I'm telling you we made the contribution. We funneled it through the channel in Florida because that's the contact we had. I was responsible for collecting it."

For all I know this sort of thing is relatively common in the world of bundling, but it sure sounds weird to me. These people all happened to have several thousand dollars of disposable income lying around to give to candidates they could care less about, because a friend asked them to as a favor?

--Josh Patashnik