TURNABOUT: McCain Needs To Come Clean About His Association With Convicted Felon Raffaello Follieri

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ASSOCIATED PRESS:  Anne Hathaway’s former boyfriend was sentenced Thursday to 4 1/2 years in prison for cheating investors of millions of dollars by claiming he had Vatican connections that enabled him to buy Roman mccain_poor_guy.thumbnail.jpgCatholic Church property at a discount. U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl said Follieri had engaged in a significant fraud that hurt investors, will financially ruin him and will cause him to be deported after his prison term. The judge also cited Follieri’s “lavish personal expenditures,” which prosecutors have said were financed with his investors’ money. MORE

THE NATION: The photograph substantiates reports that in late August, 2006, John McCain celebrated his 70th birthday aboard a yacht, the Celine Ashley, rented by A-list con man Raffaello Follieri and his then-movie star girlfriend Anne Hathaway. Montenegro’s leading daily newspaper, Vijesti, earlier reported that during McCain’s visit in 2006 he celebrated with birthday cocktails and sweets aboard the Celine Ashley yacht. In the mccain_poor_guy.thumbnail.jpgphotograph, taken in Montenegro at the end of August, McCain is shown boarding the yacht ramp towards the smiling Follieri and Hathaway.

Just ahead of McCain and shaking hands with Follieri appears to be Rick Davis–McCain’s top aide and now co-manager of his campaign, who accompanied him on the trip and advised the government of Montenegro. A few months after McCain’s yacht party, Follieri strengthened his ties to McCain’s orbit by retaining Rick Davis’s well-connected Washington lobbying firm, Davis Manafort, and offering Davis both an investment deal and help in securing the Catholic vote for McCain’s presidential bid.

mccain_poor_guy.thumbnail.jpgYet Follieri’s ties to McCain’s orbit have been largely overlooked by the media. Follieri first met McCain when the Arizona Senator visited Montenegro from August 29-31 as part of a Congressional delegation that included Republican senators Lindsay Graham, Richard Burr, Saxby Chambliss, Mel Martinez and John Sununu. What, exactly, was McCain doing aboard Follieri’s yacht? Or put another way, was this McCain’s 70th birthday wish–to spend an evening floating on the Adriatic with one of Hollywood’s top actresses and her smooth-talking Italian beau? MORE

obama_street.thumbnail.jpgNEW YORK TIMES: Senator Barack Obama is showing surprising strength among portions of the political coalition that returned George W. Bush to the White House four years ago, a cross section of support that, if it continues through Election Day, would exceed that of Bill Clinton in 1992, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News polls.Underscoring his increasing strength in the final phase of the campaign, Mr. Obama led Mr. McCain among groups that voted for President Bush four years ago: those with incomes greater than $50,000 a year; married women; suburbanites and white Catholics. He is also competitive among white men, a group that has not voted for a Democrat over a Republican since 1972, when pollsters began surveying people after they voted. MORE

palin_boxer.gifCITIZEN MOM: In the meantime, give her credit for pluck: Obama’s surging, McCain’s still talking about Joe the Plumber and Palin’s poll numbers are in full reverse, but her parallel campaign goes on, like some right-wing Second Life with pockets of players all over the country (but only the really pro-America parts). The disconnect between the campaign she’s running and the one McCain has resigned himself to is too big right now to be accidental. By publicly disagreeing with her running mate on issues like ANWR, the Federal Marriage Amendment (which he railed against on the Senate floor and which she supports, dontchaknow), and those “irritating” robocalls (which he denounced after they sank him in 2000 but has now embraced), Palin burnishes her own maverick image while endearing herself to social conservatives and other “real Americans.” This broad might be dumb, but she ain’t stupid. And one definitely gets the feeling we’re stuck with her no matter how things turn out on Nov. 4. MORE

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