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McCain takes oil money, embraces offshore drilling

August 4, 2008 |  6:40 pm

On June 10, John B. Hess, a top executive at the oil company with his family name, summoned some friends at the 21 Club, a former speakeasy in Manhattan, and delivered $285,000 to John McCain and the Republican National Committee.

A week later, McCain traveled to Texas where he announced his support for offshore oil drilling. Hess Corp. is an East Coast gasoline retailer with major refining and exploration operations, some of which are offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Mccainenergy

Just as Barack Obama is raising large sums for the Democratic National Committee, McCain is placing a premium on raising money in $28,500 chunks for the RNC. Hess was one of a half-dozen hosts who tapped their friends for the $28,500 donations at the June 10 event. Others included investor Henry Kravis and hedge fund mogul Paul E. Singer.

McCain spokesman Brian Rogers dismissed the notion of a connection between the fundraising and McCain’s stand. “Mr. Hess was fundraising before Sen. McCain made the announcement on offshore drilling.”

Most of Hess donors are attorneys and vice presidents. But one, Alice Rocchio, listed her occupation as a Hess office manager. She gave $28,500 dated June 24, as did her husband, Pasquale Rocchio, who lists his occupation as Amtrak foreman, federal election records show.

The information first came out in a Campaign Money Watch report last week, followed by an item on Talking Points Memo, which raised questions about whether the Rocchios could afford to give $57,000 to a political campaign.

The Rocchios also gave a combined $4,600 in February, when Hess employees -- one of whom listed his occupation as a "driver" -- delivered an additional $23,000 to McCain. The couple had not given money to any other federal campaign in the past decade, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Records suggest that the Rocchios are not without resources. The couple listed an address is Flushing, N.Y., but have an Arizona home and property in North Carolina.

Hess also is among Obama’s donors: $2,300 in March 2007. Other Hess employees gave Obama a combined $3,500 earlier in the campaign.

-- Dan Morain

Photo: L.M. Otero / Associated Press