National crisis: Beer heiress could be First Lady!

The AP continues its pursuit of objectivity by focusing on barley and hops in the presidential campaign. They focus on Cindy McCain’s money, with a headline that sneeringly warns that a “Beer heiress could be the next First Lady.” The former Cindy Hensley and their children have a Budweiser distributorship funding their futures to the tune of an eight-figure net worth, but what does that have to do with McCain? Not much, as it turns out:

McCain is routinely ranked among the richest senators. But a prenuptial agreement has kept most assets in his wife’s name. That arrangement served as a defense for McCain when the Senate ethics committee scrutinized a real estate deal involving his wife, her father and disgraced savings and loan owner Charles Keating Jr. McCain said at the time the separation of assets helped prove the deal didn’t benefit him.

McCain himself reports little more wealth than when he started in politics. With his book royalties and radio-appearance fees donated to charity, McCain’s Senate salary of $169,300 and Navy pension of about $56,000 are his only significant sources of income. He has accounts at two banks with his wife worth up to $15,000 each, according to his most recent financial disclosure report. ….

Hensley executives are among the Arizona senator’s top career givers. The Anheuser-Busch PAC has given McCain’s campaigns at least $19,500 over the years. McCain’s campaign fundraisers include Robert Delgado, Hensley’s president and chief executive officer; Andrew McCain, the company’s chief financial officer and John McCain’s stepson from his first marriage, to Carol Shepp; and August Busch III, chairman of Anheuser-Busch’s executive committee. Anheuser-Busch in 2006 gave $25,000 to the International Republican Institute, a pro-democracy group chaired by McCain.

Uh-huh. His father-in-law and the associated Anheuser-Busch execs gave less than $20,000 to McCain since 1982? That would have stretched over two House and four Senatorial campaigns, for an average of around $3,400 per election. Wow. What a revelation! Who knew beer executives could be that tight-fisted?

The AP then attempted to show how Cindy McCain’s fortunes help in the current presidential campaign. To this end, they offer the use of the King Aviation private jet that flies McCain on his travels. Later in the article, however, they note that McCain pays for the use of the jet, and it doesn’t come cheap: it cost almost $230,000 in 2007.

Mostly, though, the AP piece focuses on Mrs. McCain’s connection to Budweiser, for no good purpose. Why is that relevant? The AP doesn’t give any reason. Beer is perfectly legal, and if sales give any indication, Bud may be the most popular beer in the country. John McCain worked in PR for Hensley’s distributorship before going into politics, but that was over a quarter-century ago. And as the campaign points out, McCain rarely drinks alcohol anyway.

It seems the AP wants to shock the nation with the idea of a “beer heiress” as a presidential spouse. Most of us would find it a darned sight better than a trial lawyer or an impeached former President as an option.