WASHINGTON — Alice Rocchio is an office manager at the New York headquarters of the Hess Corp., drives a 1993 Chevy Cavalier and lives in an apartment in Queens, N.Y., with her husband, Pasquale, an Amtrak foreman.
Despite what appears to be a middle-class lifestyle, the couple has written $61,600 in checks to John McCain's presidential campaign and the Republican National Committee, most of it within days of McCain's decision to endorse offshore oil drilling.
At a June fundraiser, the Rocchios joined top executives at Hess Corp. — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Hess, his wife, Susan, his mother, Norma Hess, and six other officials in giving a total of $313,500 to a joint McCain-RNC fundraising committee, Federal Election Commission records show.
The donations, first traced by Campaign Money Watch last week, were part of $1.2 million in oil industry contributions to McCain's Victory '08 Committee, 73 percent coming after McCain reversed his long-held opposition to offshore oil drilling. The non-partisan watchdog group said oil executives and their spouses from Colorado, Mississippi, Louisiana, California, Indiana, New Jersey and Florida also donated.
Hess, among the nation's five biggest oil companies, conducts deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico as well as off the coasts of Europe, Africa and Asia.
The Rocchios donated $4,600 to McCain's campaign in February and another $57,000 at the June fundraiser.
Alice Rocchio, reached at the office, confirmed that she registered her '93 Chevy in February, but said that she "absolutely'' used her own money to make the donations.
Moments later, she asked a reporter: "Are you done with your questions?''
A former FEC official said that it's possible that the Rocchios had the means to make those hefty contributions — their first reported donations to a federal campaign. But the official, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter, said that their donations also could trigger a complaint or otherwise catch the eyes of the agency's enforcement staff, tasked to ensure that companies or wealthy individuals don't illegally circumvent contribution limits by using employees or other third parties as "conduits'' for cash.
The staff might wish to determine whether the couple is too "under-employed'' to be making donations that large, the official said.
An agency spokesman declined to comment on the matter.
The McCain campaign had no immediate comment.
Of the $57,000 the Rocchios donated in June, $4,600 went to McCain's general election "compliance committee,'' to pay for campaign lawyers and auditors, and $52,400 went to the RNC, which devotes nearly all of its money to supporting McCain's presidential bid.
(Tish Wells contributed to this article.)
McClatchy Newspapers 2008