It’s hard to get cell reception in an out-of-the-way place like Sedona, Ariz., but it helps if you sit on the Senate committee that oversees the telecommunications industry. The Washington Post has learned that AT&T and Verizon, both of which have lobbying ties to the McCain campaign, provided cell towers for the McCains’ ranch at no charge to the couple.
Verizon delivered a portable tower know as a “cell site on wheels”—free of charge—to Cindy McCain’s property in June in response to an online request from Cindy McCain’s staff early last year. Such devices are usually reserved for restoring service when cell coverage is knocked out during emergencies, such as hurricanes.
In July, AT&T followed suit, wheeling in a portable tower for free to match Verizon’s offer. “This is an unusual situation,” said AT&T spokeswoman Claudia B. Jones. “You can’t have a presidential nominee in an area where there is not cell coverage.”
Over the course of the past year, Cindy McCain had offered land for a permanent cell tower and Verizon embarked on an expensive process to meet her needs, hiring contractors and seeking county land-use permits even though few people other than the McCains would benefit from the tower.
Ethics lawyers said Cindy McCain’s dealings with the wireless companies stand out because Sen. John McCain is a senior member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the Federal Communications Commission and the telecommunications industry. He has been a leading advocate for industry-backed legislation, fighting regulations and taxes on telecommunications services.