The Debate-Tape Mystery Continues to Unspool

  • Share
  • Read Later

Why has the FBI focused so intensely on Maverick Media in its investigation of the pinched Bush debate-prep materials? At first it was because Maverick's owner, Mark McKinnon, is a former Democrat who serves as Governor Bush's top media adviser. Also because Yvette lozano, the Maverick employee who was captured by a post-office surveillance camera mailing a package on the same day the videotape and briefing book were mailed, is also a former Democrat. But Bush aides believe the real reason FBI investigators have continued to focus on McKinnon, Lozano and the production house is because the briefing book that was sent to Gore pal Tom Downey in Washington was a copy of the one that belonged to McKinnon. Although the FBI has told him he is not a target of the investigation, McKinnon, like Lozano, has hired a lawyer. The FBI has subpoenaed Maverick for documents.

Why do the feds think McKinnon's is the smoking binder when at least half a dozen senior Bush campaign officials had debate briefing books? A short document that only McKinnon may have had access to was also found in the material sent to Downey. According to sources familiar with the fbi's investigation, New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg, who played Gore in the Bush campaign's mock debates, had typed out about 20 suggestions for the Governor to consider in his debate preparations. During a practice session, he handed the list to McKinnon, who gave the Gregg document with its handwritten notations to Lozano, asking her to type and then e-mail them to other top Bush officials.

The assistant did so and returned the list to McKinnon, who placed it back in his debate book, which sat on a shelf in his office. Inconspicuous, the hundred or so pages were not marked in a way that hinted at the contents. Maverick kept the debate-prep video, a copy of which was included in the package to Downey, in the "tape room." "Sometimes that room's locked, sometimes it's not," says a Bush source.

Last week Stuart Stevens, who works with McKinnon, was the final top Bush aide who had access to the debate materials to be interviewed by the FBI. Stevens, who has expressed the opinion that someone with ties to the Democratic Party broke into Maverick through the next-door office of the firm Waterworks, spent roughly two hours answering questions and pressing his theories. The FBI did some brief questioning next door but was more interested in looking at the Waterworks postage machine and taking samples from its copier. But those actions, say sources close to the case, have more to do with Lozano's activity, which continues to be a keen focus of FBI scrutiny. — with reporting by Elaine Shannon/Washington and Hilary Hylton/Austin