If you wondered what the political fallout of the Scott Rothstein case would look like, you can see it in Arizona right now.
Former congressman J.D. Hayworth, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat held by John McCain, has been hammering away at the 2008 GOP presidential nominee for taking so much money ($1.1 million from Rothstein and RRA sources) from the now-convicted Ponzi schemer and disbarred lawyer. Hayworth's campaign website is dominated by Rothstein now.
Adding to the damage, McCain's campaign made a big mistake in responding to the attacks when spokesman Brian Rogers claimed that McCain "could not pick [Rothstein] out of a lineup." That only opened the door for a news conference yesterday in which Hayworth, who routinely mispronounces Rothstein's name as "RothSTINE," displayed photos of the two men, including the one above that was first published here, on a posterboard and reiterated that Rothstein was the number-one contributor to McCain's political committee.
"That flies in the face of all logic and is an insult to the intelligence of Arizona voters," Hayworth said of the "lineup" claim. "Sen. McCain is trying to cover up his relationship with this convicted felon, but the ties are too deep. Rothstein was the number-one contributor to the McCain Victory 2008 committee and the number-one contributor to the McCain-Palin Victory 2008 committee. Sen. McCain is pictured with Rothstein several times... been to his house to raise money, and even instructed his staff to set up a separate accounting system to track Rothstein's $1.1 million in political contributions."
Rothstein's former COO, Debra Villagas, has also been thrown into the mix, since $30,000 of the McCain money was funneled through her. Villagas pleaded guilty Friday to a Rothstein-related crime, saying that her boss told her that if she didn't fabricate phony documents used in the scheme that Mafia members would put "a bullet in his head."
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How effective the strategy will be for Hayworth, who is behind in the polls but giving McCain a strong battle, is another question, but none of it bodes well for Rothstein's political friends in Florida, most notably Charlie Crist. Let's face it: Nobody likes to be have their smiling photos with Rothstein trotted out to the media, and Crist has more of those out there than anybody.
Another photo displayed at the Hayworth news conference showed the list of McCain's largest contributors. Surprise: A "super" Florida lobbyist pops up at number 16 on the McCain-Palin Victory committee. See who it is after the jump.