ABC News’ Marcus Baram reports: To conclude his cross-county Service to America tour last week, John McCain chose a site rich in political symbolism: the courthouse steps in Prescott, Arizona, where conservative icon Barry Goldwater launched his presidential campaign over thirty years ago.
“He was an authentic, original and passionate patriot,” said McCain, invoking the Arizona legend’s spirit.
Back in 1992, Goldwater once accused McCain of invoking his name for a different purpose: to raise money for McCain, according to “Pure Goldwater,” a new book by Goldwater’s son, Barry Goldwater Jr., and John W. Dean.
Although he enthusiastically endorsed McCain to succeed him in the Senate, “Goldwater’s feelings toward McCain began to cool” after he became “embroiled in the ‘Keating Five’ scandal” and “Initially he tried to ignore McCain’s questionable behavior and judgment, but soon found he had to stop McCain from using his good name,” write Goldwater Jr. and Dean.
In the Keating Five scandal in the late 1980s and early 1990s, McCain was accused of intervening to help a trouble savings and loan executive, Charles Keating, while he was taking political contributions from Keating. McCain claimed he never went to bat for Keating and a Senate Ethics panel concluded that McCain had acted with bad judgment, but found him guilty of no wrongdoing.
After Goldwater received a angry letter from an old friend saying that an event saluting Goldwater was “nothing but a fund-raiser for John McCain,” the former Senator fired off a letter to McCain on May 18, 1992:
“On top of that, when I got home this afternoon, I found copies of letters that you had mailed asking special friends of mine, to join in this effort. John, this is not the way I’ve operated in my political life, and I don’t want to start it in my retired life. So, you agree to give half the money to the Republican party, and this thing can go along. If you don’t agree to it, then I’m going to have to give it a lot of good hard thinking.”
Goldwater agreed to attend the event, which was turned into a salute to Ronald Reagan benefiting the Arizona Republican Party. But he soon had to pursue McCain for $35,000 that he still owed to the party.
“If this is true, I would urge you to make this payment immediately, in the interest of Party harmony, and your own campaign. Don’t ignore this. Please pay attention to it,” wrote Goldwater on September 25, 1992.
After McCain replied with a form letter, and apparently invoked Goldwater’s name again without his approval, Goldwater sent an icy response to McCain.
“Thank you for the Form Letter. However, I must tell you that the president never called for my help, in fact the president never called period. Good luck in the coming New Year.”
Goldwater Jr. tells ABCNews.com that McCain eventually paid the money and that they remained friends.
“John took advantage of my father’s name without my Dad’s permission and there were some letters exchanged,” he says. “By and large, they were good friends. That was just one of those disagreements that occurred.”
Goldwater Jr., who supported Ron Paul during the Republican primary, plans to vote for McCain in the general election and believes that his father would do the same.
“John was an up-coming aggressive politician and the old man got his feathers ruffled once or twice.”
A spokesman for the McCain campaign, Tucker Bounds, emailed a statement:
“Senators McCain and Goldwater were supportive of each other in their political and private lives, and John McCain considers it a privilege to occupy the Senate seat vacated by one of Arizona’s greatest public servants. I am not familiar with the context of the correspondence mentioned in the book, but it was clearly not relevant to their overall relationship which remained quite strong and respectful through Senator Goldwater’s last days.”