Early last week, a reader flagged a report in the online newspaper Narco News which noted an interesting FEC expense filing from the McCain campaign from June. The filing listed expenses for hotels and airline tickets in Singapore and Vietnam -- that seemed to correlate with a trip that Cindy McCain took in June to Southeast Asia. The campaign charges seemed at odds with statements made both by Cindy and the campaign at the time, which said that the trip was for "non-campaign" and "humanitarian" reasons.
The filings list $12,316 in air travel on Thai Airways International, British Airways and Air Singapore, as well as $4,886 in hotel stays for the Raffles Hotel in Singapore and the Caravelle Hotel and "Vinpers Resort" in Vietnam.
But the filings didn't specify who the expenses were for, so TPMmuckraker called the McCain camp, and like NarcoNews, received no response to inquiries on the expense filings or the trip.
Stonewalled by the campaign, we started calling hotels listed to see if Cindy or Meghan had stayed there on their trip which had been part of Cindy's ongoing work with poor children in Southeast Asia -- primarily with the charity Operation Smile.
We found that "Vinpers Resort Spa," is the Vinpearl Resort Spa. Vinpearl Hotel administrators confirmed to TPMmuckraker that both Cindy and Meghan McCain were guests there on the night of June 18th, which was also mentioned in local news reports at the time.
So the campaign expenses were in fact tied to Cindy and Meghan's trip, which seemed sharply at odds with what the campaign and Cindy herself described as a solely "humanitarian" mission:
"This is what I do, and this is what revitalizes me, personally," Cindy McCain is quoted as saying in an AP article from June 10th. "The campaign is extremely important, of course, but this is also important to me, and so you try to balance everything."
The personal, non-campaign nature of the trip was stressed by McCain's own staff who said that the excursion was "private and not related to the political campaign," according to a June 19 report from the French news service the AFP.
Our initial calls to the camp still unreturned, we called again -- but this time asking for a comment on the Cindy's stay at the Vinpearl. We got a response within an hour.
In a conversation with TPMmuckraker, Cindy McCain's press aide confirmed that two campaign aides accompanied Meghan and Cindy on their trip.
"There was a press aide and another press advance person who went along and that the campaign paid for," Cindy McCain's spokesperson Laurye Blackford told us, adding that Cindy and Meghan paid their own way and the way of their guests.
Blackford also confirmed that following her trip to Southeast Asia, Cindy McCain did participate in a campaign function -- she and Megan attended a fundraiser for the campaign in London on June 26.
It is unclear whether this would qualify the whole of the McCain's trip to Asia as a travel expense under FEC guidelines.