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Democrat calls for probe of McCain fundraiser's company

The Baltimore Sun

The Democratic chairman of a House investigative committee presented documents to the Pentagon yesterday charging that a top Republican fundraiser, Harry Sargeant III, has made $210 million in profits over the past four years because his company vastly overcharged for delivering fuel to U.S. air bases in Iraq.

In a written statement yesterday, a lawyer for Sargeant, who is finance chairman of the Florida Republican Party and a major fundraiser for John McCain's campaign, called the allegations "deeply disappointing" and said they were not supported by facts.

The company, International Oil Trading Co., was briefly in the news this summer when a former partner filed suit against Sargeant in a Florida court. The plaintiff, a Jordanian named Mohammad al-Saleh, is a brother-in-law of the King of Jordan. In court papers he asserted that he gotten special governmental authorizations for the company to transport fuel through Jordan and then was forced out by Sargeant, who strongly disputed the allegations.

But the latest claims, presented by Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, go further. Waxman uses e-mails, company documents, Pentagon reports and other data to argue that Sargeant received contracts to deliver the fuel even though his company was not the low bidder.

In one case, the Waxman letter asserts, Pentagon contracting officers complained that the company's prices were unreasonably high and initially said they could not justify giving the work to Sargeant. But for reasons the company did not explain, Waxman's letter indicates, no other American company was given an authorization to transport the fuel through Jordan.

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