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McNightmare for Dream Weaver

Who’s at fault for the McCain money meltdown?

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John McCain’s Straight Talk Express has run into a fund-raising ditch, and the finger-pointing has begun on who was behind the wheel. A power struggle is in the offing. One target of resentment is McCain’s New York–based chief strategist, John Weaver, who “has some explaining to do,” says Scott Reed, a McCainiac who managed Bob Dole’s 1996 run. “They spent money like drunk sailors and are now waking up saying, ‘Oops.’ This has the potential to cost McCain the nomination.” Last week, the campaign cut its staff to save cash, and campaign manager Terry Nelson said he’d work for free. But the money troubles have been looming for some time. And federal election records show that Weaver saw his pay increase to $20,000 a month early this year from $15,000 a month in late 2006. The campaign also has Weaver’s fiancée, ex-Giuliani operative Angela Hession, on the payroll, along with her brother, one senior campaign official says. Weaver, who decamped from Greenwich Village to D.C. last month, declined to address spending-related questions, though when asked in an e-mail how the campaign’s ills might affect his career, he wrote back, “The reason I have a career in this crazy business is that I only worry about the election and not my career.” McCain’s spokesman, Dan Diaz, called the griping “not worthy of a response.”

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