The Real Elitist: Video of McCain's Collection of Mansions Reveal He's Not Your Average Joe

The A.F.L.-C.I.O. and the Service Employees International Union have feuded plenty in recent years, but they have banded together to help distribute and publicize a new online video that characterizes Senator John McCain as elitist and out of touch.

The four-minute video, produced by Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films, is called "McCain's Mansions: the Real Elitist" and showcases various McCain homes and condominiums in Arizona, California and Virginia, with one valued at $4.66 million.

While highlighting the wealth of Mr. McCain and his wife, Cindy - the video also includes a cable news clip poking fun at Mr. McCain's $520 calfskin loafers made by Salvatore Ferragamo - the video also focuses on the tale of Eileen Gillis, described as a systems engineer and sales clerk whose house in Connecticut was foreclosed upon.

Mr. Greenwald's company, Brave New Films, which has made films castigating Wal-Mart and Fox News, said that it planned, with the help of the A.F.L.-C.I.O and service employees, to distribute McCain's Mansions to more than 500,000 voters. It offers the effort as a sort-of-chain Web video, imploring viewers and supporters to send it along to five friends.

(We have asked the McCain campaign for comment on the new video and its claims.)

Update: Alex Conant, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee responded: "Considering Barack Obama lives in a multi-million dollar house bought with the help of his buddy, Tony Rezko, who is now a convicted felon, it's odd that Obama's supporters would choose to make the candidates' homes an issue."

The video shows Mr. McCain praising 51 million homeowners for skipping vacations, taking a second job or managing their budgets to make their mortgage payments on time. But then the video shows Ms. Gillis saying that she and her husband took second jobs in retailing, but were still unable to avoid foreclosure. She said the choice came down to putting food on the table or paying their monthly mortgage. (Her first mortgage was from the troubled Countrywide lender, according to public records.)

The A.F.L.-C.I.O and the service employees are helping distribute the video to union members partly because they see many workers sympathizing with Mr. McCain as a war hero. These labor groups want to make the case that Barack Obama, far more than John McCain, is in tune with the nation's workers.

In its effort to portray Mr. McCain as elitist, McCain's Mansions shows his wife explaining why she bought a private jet. "My husband was running for the Senate in Arizona," she said. "And in Arizona the only way to get around the state is by small private plane and I wound up loving it and buying a plane."

McCain's Mansions also shows a CNN report saying that the McCains are worth at least $36.5 million, with some people estimating that they are worth $100 million.

The video runs clips from cable news showing various McCain homes, including one valued at $4.66 million in Phoenix, one worth $2.1 million in Coronado, Calif, one worth $1.97 million in Sedona, Ariz., one worth $1 million in La Jolla, Calif., and one worth $847,800 in Arlington, Va.

It also replays some of McCain's comments on the foreclosure crisis in which he said, "Any assistance must be temporary and must not reward people who were irresponsible at the expense of those who weren't."

Then it shows Ms. Gillis saying that she and her husband were not irresponsible and that they could not keep up with their $2,400 a month mortgage payments with interest rates that had climbed to 15.75 percent.

"I don't think that unless you've been in this situation that you can truly appreciate how hard it is for people," she said.

In a statement, John J. Sweeney, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.'s president, said, Mr. McCain "has ten houses and flies around the world in a private jet. He simply doesn't understand the challenges America's working families are facing because he isn't remotely affected by them."

Andy Stern, the service employees' president, added, "McCain champions a George Bush agenda of cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy, helping oil companies turn record profits, and leaving working families to fend for themselves. McCain's velvet world leaves him utterly unprepared to make the tough choices we need to restore the middle class."

Brave New Films,, has made 15 online Real McCain videos that attack the presumptive Republican nominee. It says they have been viewed more than 6 million times.

The release of the video follows mailings sent last week to more than 50,000 retired union members. And it also follows Senator McCain's answer to a question seeking the definition of "rich" posed by the Rev. Rick Warren at the faith forum on Saturday at his Saddleback megachurch in Lake Forest, Calif. Mr. McCain answered $5 million, but then quickly followed by saying he was sure his assessment would be distorted. (For his part, Mr. Obama, asked the same question, turned the tables on Mr. Warren, the best-selling author of "The Purpose-Driven Life," and joked about $25 million in book sales.)

Kitty Bennett contributed to this post.

Disclosure: Robert Greenwald is a boardmember of AlterNet's parent organization, the Independent Media Institute.

© 2008 The New York Times

AlterNet is making this New York Times material available in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107: This article is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

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