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John McCain's meeting with a casino exec causes brief flurry

August 8, 2008 | 10:31 am

Reporters on John McCain's campaign plane were stunned Friday to learn that the presumptive Republican nominee had scheduled a private meeting with Tony Alamo this weekend in Las Vegas. A quick Google search finds:

In 1985 Alamo targeted the Pope and then-president Ronald Reagan. "Did you know that the Pope and Ronald Reagan are a couple of Anti-Christ Devils and that they are selling us all down the drain?" asked a tract entitled "Genocide." A federal grand jury in Memphis, Tennessee, charged Alamo with filing a false income tax return in 1985 and he failed to file returns during the following three years... Alamo was ultimately arrested on tax-related charges and was convicted in 1994. He completed a six-year federal sentence, and then went to a halfway house in Texarkana [Texas].

McCain's campaign aides quickly batted down that salacious story, however. McCain will meet a different Tony Alamo, this one the general manager of the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino in Las Vegas, they said, not the renegade preacher.

Still, the meeting might have an awkward moment or two. According to a report published on Feb. 21, 2003, in Boxing News, McCain injected himself into an ethics dispute involving the Alamo family, and sent a letter (pasted after the jump) to then-Gov. Kenny C. Guinn urging a review of the appointment of Alamo's son to the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

-- Bob Drogin

February 21, 2003

The Honorable Kenny C. Guinn
Governor of Nevada
Capitol Building
Carson City, NV 89701

Dear Governor Guinn,

I am writing to express my concern regarding recent conflict-of-interest allegations involving Nevada State Athletic Commission Chairman, Luther Mack, and Vice Chairman, Dr. Tony Alamo, Jr. These allegations are particularly troubling in light of the historically high regard in which the Nevada Commission has been held.

The United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which I chair, has worked diligently over the past seven years to curb the unscrupulous behavior that plagues the sport of boxing. Although two federal boxing laws have been enacted during this time, these laws have not been enforced by either federal or state officials, and the sport continues to cry out for reform. If true, the allegations concerning the Nevada State Athletic Commission described below would be contrary to the efforts of this Committee and Congress to improve the sport, and further evidence of the need for broader federal oversight of boxing.

As I assume you know, Dr. Alamo is the son of Mr. Tony Alamo, Sr., a Senior Vice President at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, a hotel licensed as a boxing promoter and regulated by the Nevada Commission, and considered by many as the world's premier venue for professional boxing matches. I understand that Dr. Alamo, who you appointed to the Nevada Commission in September 2001, was recently elevated to Vice Chairman by Chairman Mack, replacing the knowledgeable and well-respected former Vice Chairman, Dr. Flip Homansky.

It has been alleged that Dr. Alamo's relationship to the overseer of boxing at Mandalay Bay (his father, Mr. Alamo) conflicts with, or at a minimum, appears to conflict with Dr. Alamo's responsibility impartially to discharge his duty to regulate the sport of professional boxing on behalf of the State of Nevada. Dr. Alamo's original appointment to the Commission, and his recent promotion to vice chairman, have been widely criticized by many in the boxing industry.

In addition to concerns that have been raised regarding Dr. Alamo, conflict-of-interest allegations have also been leveled against Chairman Mack.

The Nevada State Code of Ethical Standards specifically states, "A public officer or employee shall not seek or accept any gift, service, favor, employment, engagement, emolument or economic opportunity which would tend improperly to influence a reasonable person in his position to depart from the faithful and impartial discharge of his public duties. Furthermore, federal boxing law strictly prohibits any "person who administers or enforces State boxing laws" from receiving "any compensation from any person who sanctions, arranges, or promotes professional boxing matches."

Despite these proscriptions, I understand that Chairman Mack, a resident of Reno, Nevada, has on several occasions received significantly discounted room rates from Mr. Alamo and Mandalay Bay, including a December 2002 stay only two weeks before Mr. Mack promoted Dr. Alamo to vice chairman. When questioned during a February 7, 2003, interview with ESPN regarding his receipt of discounted room rates from Mandalay Bay, the Chairman responded that his conduct was not out of the ordinary, and added, "in all honesty, a lot of judges and referees get their rooms for free."

I strongly encourage you to review Dr. Alamo's position on the Commission to determine whether his continued service is in the best interest of professional boxing in your state, and to examine boxing officials' receipt of compensation from regulated entities. Given that the Nevada State Athletic Commission is considered the standard bearer for all boxing commissions in this country, it is imperative that you remain vigilant in maintaining the highest possible ethical standards.


John McCain

cc: The Honorable John Ashcroft, United States Attorney General
The Honorable Brian Sandoval, Nevada State Attorney General
Mr. Tim Lueckenhoff, President, Association of Boxing Commissions
Mr. Luther Mack, Chairman, Nevada State Athletic Commission
Dr. Tony Alamo, Jr., Vice Chairman, Nevada State Athletic Commission