John McCain raised more than $1.75 million for Republicans Monday at a fundraiser that became high profile after a political operative connected to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff promoted it.
The event was promoted by Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition. McCain's campaign said it was organized by the Republican National Committee _ not Reed, who was linked to the Abramoff scandal that McCain investigated in the Senate.
McCain didn't note the issue during his 22-minute appearance. Instead, he thanked donors to the Republicans' umbrella campaign fund.
"Everybody in this room could be someplace else," the Arizona senator told the crowd of several hundred. "Everybody in this room could be donating to some other cause or to their own well-being. But I want to thank you."
Reed was not seen inside the hotel ballroom; a McCain campaign spokeswoman said he did not attend. But Democrat Barack Obama's rival presidential campaign sought to make him an issue, asking how much Reed-linked money was raised or would be kept by McCain's campaign.
"Faced with the embarrassing prospect of holding a fundraiser with one of Jack Abramoff's closest associates, the McCain campaign scrambled today to scratch Ralph Reed from tonight's program, but voters deserve to know the answers to the real questions raised by Reed's involvement," Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor said.
"If the McCain campaign won't return the money Reed has raised for them, then voters should rightly ask why it matters that Reed didn't show up at tonight's event. The real question isn't why Reed isn't showing up, but why a so-called reformer would invite him at all."
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last week that Reed said he had agreed to be on the Republicans' "Victory 2008 Team." In a follow-up statement to reporters, he said he has no position in the McCain campaign.