NEW YORK — Republican presidential candidate John McCain met Wednesday with a panel of business executives to seek their opinions on the Bush administration's proposed $700 million bailout of U.S. financial markets.
McCain said he wanted to discuss "how we can make sure that the American people regain confidence on Main Street so that they can regain their confidence in Wall Street and in Washington." He renewed his insistence that the bailout deal have greater transparency, oversight and CEO accountability to make it acceptable to voters.
"Most Americans feel very strongly this isn't their fault. It's Wall Street and Washington and the cozy insider relationships that have caused a great part of the problems," he said.
Flanking McCain were former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, his one-time rival for the GOP presidential nomination, and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman. Others in the meeting were John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems, and John Thain, the CEO of Merrill Lynch before it was acquired by Bank of America earlier this month for a much-reduced value.
A survey by The Associated Press found that Thain was the best-paid corporate executive in the U.S. in 2007, receiving approximately $83.1 million in salary and bonuses that year.
McCain has stated repeatedly that the bailout package should not allow large payouts, called "golden parachutes," for executives at failing firms like Merrill Lynch. Asked whether he believed the panel of business titans agreed with him on that principle, McCain said, "I think this group of people are as knowledgeable on the financial status of America as any group of Americans that I can find."
Earlier this week, McCain said at a campaign event in Scranton, Pa., "The senior executives of any firm that is bailed out by Treasury should not be making more than the highest-paid government official." The highest-paid federal official is President Bush, who receives an annual salary of $400,000.
Later Wednesday, McCain and running mate Sarah Palin met with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and Ukrainian President Viktor Yuscheneko. Saakashvili thanked McCain for his support during Georgia's conflict with Russia over the breakaway province of South Ossetia.
"Sen. McCain was an inspiration to me for many years like he's been for many, many people all around the world," Saakashvili said. "Never underestimate the moral support he has provided us all these years."
Both McCain and Palin were meeting with foreign leaders in conjunction with the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. The Alaska governor, who had no foreign policy experience when she joined the GOP ticket, met Tuesday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, as well as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
Palin did not respond Wednesday to a reporter's question about what she had learned in her meetings.
McCain was also scheduled to meet with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and with Bono, the lead singer of U2 and an activist on global poverty and AIDS. He was scheduled to tape an appearance on "Late Night with David Letterman."
McCain scheduled a session with Lady Lynn de Rothschild, a former supporter and fundraiser for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential run who announced last week that she was supporting McCain.
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