In 1986, when then-Rep. McCain was running for the Senate seat vacated by Barry Goldwater, he quietly began remodeling a $500,000 house in central Phoenix owned by his wealthy father-in-law James Hensley. The $225,000 project -- which included the construction of a 4,000-square-foot addition, swimming pool, jacuzzi, cabana and barbecue -- held political peril for McCain, who was already fighting charges that he was as an opportunistic carpertbagger.
The new house was located in Phoenix's fourth congressional district -- outside of the first district in Tempe which he represented at the time.
AP caught wind of the work at 7110 North Central Ave. shortly before the general election and dispatched a reporter to examine blueprints at the planning department. They found the permit applicants were listed as Hensley and a mysterious "Mr. Smith."
The reporter tracked down McCain's plumber, who told him he'd been told Mr. Smith's first name was "Eldon."
Eldon Smith, it turned out, was John McCain.
When confronted with the blueprints, McCain's spokeswoman didn't deny that the renovation was being done for McCain and his wife Cindy -- and suggested that Smith was Cindy's mother's maiden name. She didn't explain why Marguerite Hensley might have been listed as "Mr. Smith."
Later, McCain released a statement attributing the choice of Smith's name to his architect. Use of the alias didn't violate the law, he claimed, because it appeared only on blueprints and not on official permits.
"Like most architectural firms, Sheiner Day Kunz Associates uses a generic name on blueprints when working for a well-known client," he said, adding that he and Cindy had been "very open" about their plans to move out of his congressional district.
Alas, local planning experts didn't quite agree.
"Gabor Lorant, head of the Phoenix-area chapter of the American Institute of Architects," the AP reported on Oct. 31, 1986, "said that in his 29 years of work here he had never heard of a blueprint practice such [as the one] McCain described as common practice."
A McCain spokesman declined comment on the 22-year-old intrigue.
Note to Barack Obama: The story had little impact on the race and McCain went on to trounce Democrat Richard Kimball.