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Post: McCain's Keating 5 lawyer pressured DEA investigators on wife's drug abuse
Nick Juliano
Published: Friday September 12, 2008

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John McCain's powerful Washington, DC, lawyer, who secured a slap on the wrist for the Arizona Senator following the Keating Five scandal, was in close contact with federal investigators probing Cindy McCain's prescription drug abuse, throughout their nearly yearlong investigation, according to a new report Friday.

Although there was little doubt that McCain was misusing a medical-aid charity she ran in the early 1990s to obtain massive quantities of narcotic painkillers to feed her addiction, the Drug Enforcement Agency filed no federal charges against her. Instead, she was able to cut a deal that let her off the hook in exchange for completing a brief drug aversion program.

There is perhaps no one who can claim more credit for this auspicious outcome than John Dowd, an attorney with substantial clout in the nation's capital who came to McCain's aid after a former employee began telling the DEA what he knew about her drug problem.

A few months before Tom Gosinski, who worked for McCain's American Voluntary Medical Team in the early 1990s, came forward to share his observations on McCain's prescription drug abuse with RAW STORY and others, he had been talking to the Washington Post, which published its own lengthy investigation Friday into the would-be first lady's struggles with Vicodin and Percocet.

The Post tracked down John Max Johnson, a former doctor for the charity who wrote prescriptions in other AVMT employees' names that ended up supplying McCain's personal stash.

The employees did not know their names were being used. And under DEA regulations, Johnson was supposed to use a form to notify federal officials that he was ordering the narcotics for the charity. It is illegal for an organization to use personal prescriptions to fill its drug needs.

"The DEA told me it was okay to do it that way," Johnson told The Washington Post recently, in his first media interview about the case. "Otherwise, I never would have done it."
The county report showed that Johnson told officials he knew it was wrong, but he wrote prescriptions at McCain's request at least twice.

The paper also laid out the steps Dowd took to keep McCain out of trouble and seek retribution on Gosinski.
The DEA questioned the charity's doctors, and McCain hired John Dowd, a powerhouse Washington lawyer, to represent AVMT. Dowd had defended John McCain in the Keating Five scandal, helping the senator win the mildest sanction of the five senators involved. Dowd declined to comment for this article.

Soon, the DEA began looking at Cindy McCain. Dowd informed Johnson, the physician, that "there's been further investigation and Cindy's got a drug problem," Johnson told county investigators.

The DEA pursued the matter for 11 months. Dowd kept tabs on the investigation from Washington, writing letters and making frequent phone calls to the agency, according to sources close to the investigation.

McCain's conduct left her facing federal charges of obtaining "a controlled substance by misrepresenting, fraud, forgery, deception or subterfuge." Experts say she could have faced a 20-year prison sentence.

Dowd negotiated a deal with the U.S. attorney's office allowing McCain, as a first-time offender, to avoid charges and enter a diversion program that required community service, drug treatment and reimbursement to the DEA for investigative costs. Johnson agreed to surrender his medical license and retire.

With final negotiations between federal prosecutors and Dowd still underway, Gosinski sued McCain for wrongful termination.

On Feb. 4, 1994, Gosinski's attorney, Stanley Lubin, wrote to McCain, saying his client had omitted certain details in his lawsuit "due to their sensitive nature." He said that for $250,000, Gosinski would drop the action. Lubin said in an interview that he met with Dowd, who said the lawsuit was without merit. "He told me if I thought the senator was going to cave into this extortion, I was going to learn a very serious lesson," Lubin recalled.
Friday's Post article represents the first substantial inquiry into McCain's drug use by a major US news outlet of this presidential campaign, although the Republican presidential candidate's spouse has spoken of her struggles with pain killer abuse in interviews before.

The paper said it first spoke to Gosinski in May, so the article has been in the works for some time. After RAW STORY and others published accounts of independent interviews with Gosinksi Thursday, Americablog's John Aravosis noticed that the Post appeared to have pulled a story on the topic.

The article was displayed on the front page of Friday's newspaper.