Cindy McCain's addiction to prescription painkillers emerged into public view 14 years ago with a well-orchestrated PR campaign designed to preserve her husband's political future.
Aside from a lengthy contemporary investigation from Phoenix's alternative weekly and occasional mentions since then, the addiction back-story -- including ample questions about what John McCain knew, when he knew it and questions over whether he was complicit in the cover-up -- has gone largely untold. Until now.
Tom Gosinski, a former employee of the medical-aid charity Cindy McCain used as personal supplier of Percocet and Vicodin, is speaking out publicly for the first time.
On Wednesday, Gosinski sat down with RAW STORY and other outlets to tell his story and distribute copies of his personal journal from his time with the American Voluntary Medical Team in the last half of 1992, where he voiced ever more acute concerns and frustrations over McCain's drug use and its impact on her mood and job performance.
"My journal wasn't to trash Cindy or anything," he says. "My journal was kept because I came in contact with so many people. It was a way of keeping an ongoing biography of all the people I met, so I could refer back to it."
He says he can't buy the official McCain camp line that Cindy's drug abuse was kept from her husband, he saw and heard too much for any of their stories to make sense -- like the time Cindy was allegedly taken to the hospital after an overdose and John rushed in to berate the doctors and nurses there before moving Cindy to their secluded Sedona ranch. Then there were the Hensley family interventions and the fact that Cindy's drug abuse came to be something of an open secret among employees of the charity.
"I have always wondered why John McCain has done nothing to fix the problem," Gosinski wrote on July 27, 1992. "He must either not see that a problem exists or does not choose to do anything about it."
Less than a month later, Gosinski was clearer about McCain's knowledge of his wife's problem: "John McCain has known about it for some time," he wrote on Aug. 14.
In confessing to her drug abuse in orchestrated interviews with friendly journalists in 1994, Cindy McCain said she had kept her problem hidden from her husband and sought treatment at some point in 1992. Questions remain about the validity of those assurances, and Gosinski's contemporary journal shares a story suggesting John McCain knew of his wife's problem earlier than anyone has suggested.
In an Oct. 5, 1992, entry, Gosinski writes about a story that circulated just a few days after Cindy McCain's parents, Jim and Smitty Hensley, confronted her about her drug abuse.
Last Friday, late in the afternoon, Miss Jeri (Cindy's aunt) was visiting with Dalton Smith, the Hensley's Pilot about Jim and Smitty confronting Cindy about her drug problem. During the conversation Dalton mentioned an incident which took place a couple of years ago -- Cindy had taken too many pills and had been rushed to a hospital near their home on Oak Creek. John McCain was rushed to the hospital and rather than helping Cindy obtain help he had her dismissed from the hospital and taken to the Cabin. I had assumed the entire family knew of the incident as Kathy Walker had mentioned it to me many months ago but come to find out Jeri and the Hensleys knew nothing of it. Needless to say it was very painful for Miss Jeri to find this out and she was very concerned about what the news of this occurrence would do to Jim and Smitty. Whatever the outcome, I doubt that Jim and Smitty will ever be able to respect John McCain again
Even now, more than a decade-and-a-half later, Gosinski says he's not convinced that Cindy has cleaned herself up. Asked if her behavior in public and on the campaign trail this year mirrored his experiences in 1992, Gosinski agreed.
"I'm probably looking too closely, [but] I would say yes," he said in an interview. But I've got a biased opinion on that."
From July 2, 1992, until Gosinski's termination the following January, he grows increasingly agitated at McCain's behavior and becomes convinced she is using the charity more for self-promotion than as a means to aid the poor.
"I have mixed emotions about what I believe should happen to AVMT," Gosinski wrote in one of his last journal entries in December 1992. "It does not deserve to continue to exist as it is currently being operated -- it is a very expensive toy for a very disturbed lady. Cindy has use (sic) the organization for self-promotion and as a source for the drugs to which she is addicted."
Gosinski, who believes he was fired because he had learned too much about McCain's drug abuse, says he has remained quiet out of fear of retribution from John McCain or his political allies.
After he was fired from AVMT, Gosinski, a lifelong Republican, says he was "black balled" from future political jobs. Furthermore, McCain and his Keating Five lawyer John Dowd orchestrated an extortion investigation aimed at squashing a wrongful termination lawsuit Gosinski had filed.
"I think everybody knows that John McCain has a volatile ... temper," Gosinski said Wednesday. "And I don't know how they can mess with my life. They certainly tried to mess with it 15 years ago by making me unemployable and ruining my opportunity for a job in Republican politics in Arizona."
By the time the wrongful termination suit was filed and the investigation launched, Gosinski already had been meeting for nearly a year with the Drug Enforcement Agency to detail Cindy McCain's use of the charity as her own personal pain-killer depot. Essentially, Gosinski could not have been blackmailing the rich, powerful and politically connected McCain family because he already had told the authorities what he knew.
Gosinski was fired after he complained about prescriptions Cindy McCain had ordered in his name, and he approached the DEA with a “what if” scenario asking whether he could be held liable for not coming forward with information about the drug thefts.
Ironically, in their pursuit of a designated political enemy, McCain and his allies ended up setting in motion the process that would eventually expose Cindy McCain's drug abuse.
"[Neither] my lawsuit, nor anything I did with the DEA, made the matters public," Gosinski says. "When John Dowd and John McCain tried to intimidate me" it put it into the public sphere because Dowd "pretty much directed the Maricopa County Attorney's office" on how to pursue an extortion case. The records of that case became a part of the public record and contained Cindy McCain’s admission of a drug problem while revealing the DEA was investigating her charity.
Several hundred pages of documents from the extortion investigation and Gosinski's lawsuit also were distributed Wednesday, along with excerpts from his journal. No extortion charges ever were filed, and Gosinski says he eventually gave up on the lawsuit when he realized he was up against McCain's relentless and well-funded Washington legal team.
Included in the documents are interviews with several McCain and Hensley associates and employees of the AVMT. Smith, the Hensley pilot who mentioned Cindy's alleged early 1990s overdose, clammed up when the Mariposa County attorney turned his questions toward her drug problem.
I asked Mr. Smith if he learned, from any source, that Cindy McCain may have had, or does have, a drug dependency. Mr. Smith became upset and said, "I am not willing to discuss that." He said, "I did not come here [to] talk about Cindy, I came here to talk about Tom." ... He advised he will not answer the question and would rather have an attorney present if we were going to be talking about drugs.
When he started working for McCain's medical charity, Gosinski says he quickly became friends with the McCains and the Hensleys -- Cindy's family whose Hensley & Co. beer distributorship made them all incredibly wealthy.
Gosinski says he accompanied Cindy McCain to Bangladesh, where she decided to adopt her daughter Bridget (he confirmed that the story of Mother Theresa's involvement was completely fabricated), and he used to accompany McCain and her children on outings to the mall or the swimming pool.
The journal excerpts released Wednesday, though, portray a deep sense of pity on Gosinski's part for the life McCain had made for herself, concern for the effect her addiction was having on her children and a growing disillusionment with her political persona.
"During my short tenure at AVMT, I have been surrounded by what on the surface appears to be the ultimate All American family," he writes on July 27, 1992. "In reality, I am working for a very sad, lonely woman whose marriage of convenience to a US Senator has driven her to: distance herself from friends; cover feelings of despair with drugs; and replace lonely moments with self-indulgences."
Several journal entries also mention McCain's daughter Meghan, who was 7 when the journal was written. Now 23, Meghan blogs about pop culture and her father's campaign and has recently written a children's book.
Gosinski details a conversation with Jeri Johnson, Cindy McCain's aunt, regarding Cindy's nanny, Diane, in a July 28, 1992 entry.
Diane voice concerns regarding Cindy's use of drugs and the effect it is having on the kids. Diane told Jeri that Meghan recently told her to "fuck off" after trying to discipline her. She also told Jeri that she is concerned that Cindy is giving the kids drugs which unnecessarily sedate them. I hope that is not happening.
Concerns that Cindy McCain is unnecessarily drugging her children appear again in a July 31 entry -- "Cari (Cindy's adopted daughter) told the three that she fears Cindy gives the kids prescription drugs they do not need," Gosinski wrote.
As summer turns toward autumn, the charity becomes an outgrowth of John McCain's senate re-election campaign, with travel and scheduling coordinated by aides on his campaign and senate staffs, Gosinski writes.
"I have never been so aware of the amount of insincerity behind a political campaign as I am now with John McCain's reelection campaign," he writes on Sept. 3, 1992. "Everything Cindy McCain does is politically motivated and driven by the almighty 'photo op.' I am convinced that Cindy McCain could give a rat's ass about the citizens of the third world countries or the victims of natural disasters."
The following videos were posted to YouTube by Open Left's Matt Stoller, who spoke to Gosinski along with RAW STORY Wednesday: