A now-disbarred Florida lawyer who admitted to orchestrating a huge Ponzi scheme gave more than $180,000 to Arizona Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign, contributions that McCain's Senate rival is now making an issue in their competitive primary.
Scott Rothstein was sentenced Wednesday to 50 years in prison after he confessed to running a $1.2 billion fraud using faked legal settlements.
Rothstein also was a key contributor and fundraiser who bundled more than $500,000 in campaign contributions for McCain's 2008 race, according to the campaign finance watchdog Center for Responsive Politics.
The exact amount he raised from others is unknown, but Rothstein boasted to the Wall Street Journal in 2008 that he raised as much as $1.1 million for McCain.
The campaign of former U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth, who is challenging McCain in Arizona's Aug. 24 Republican primary, demanded that the four-term senator account for and donate all of the money connected to Rothstein.
"McCain can't have it both ways. He can't be the champion of campaign finance reform one day and then take more than a million dollars from a convicted felon the next day," Hayworth spokesman Mark Sanders said.
McCain's campaign has attacked Hayworth's ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was sentenced in September 2008 to four years in prison on charges of mail fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion.
In his unsuccessful 2006 bid for a seventh term in the U.S. House, Hayworth donated to charity the $2,250 he received directly from Abramoff but declined to donate thousands more that he received from Abramoff's lobbying clients.
Rothstein had close relationships with politicians in Florida and elsewhere, who quickly moved to distance themselves from him as his scheme came tumbling down late last year. The Florida Democratic and Republican parties returned contributions connected to Rothstein, along with Forida Gov. Charlie Crist and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, both Republicans.