Cindy McCain’s Half Sister ‘Angry’ She’s Hidden

Kathleen Portalski Hensley and her father Jim Hensley

Kathleen Portalski Hensley and her father Jim Hensley

Kathleen Hensley Portalski

Kathleen Hensley Portalski

National Public Radio

by Ted Robbins

 

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Kathleen Hensley Portalski displays newspaper clippings of her father in World War II, as well as snapshots of herself as a child with her father.

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Courtesy Nicholas Portalski
Portalski is shown with her late father, Jim Hensley, who also was Cindy McCain’s father.

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Nicholas Portalski, whose mother is McCain’s half sister, says it’s “very, very hurtful” that he and his mother haven’t been recognized.

All Things Considered, August 18, 2008 · Last Tuesday, NPR broadcast a story about Cindy McCain’s business and charity work. In it, Ted Robbins described McCain as the only child of Jim Hensley, a wealthy Arizona businessman. The next morning, NPR received an e-mail from Nicholas Portalski of Phoenix, who heard the story with his mother.

“We were listening to the piece about Cindy McCain on NPR, All Things Considered, and it just struck us very hard,” Portalski said.

His mother, Kathleen Hensley Portalski, is also Hensley’s daughter.

The Portalski family is accustomed to hearing Cindy McCain described as Hensley’s only child.

She’s been described that way by news organizations from The New Yorker and The New York Times to Newsweek and ABC.

McCain herself routinely uses the phrase “only child,” as she did on CNN last month. “I grew up with my dad,” she said then. “I’m an only child. My father was a cowboy, and he really loved me very much, but I think he wanted a son occasionally.”

McCain’s father was also a businessman — and twice a father.

“I’m upset,” Kathleen Portalski says. “I’m angry. It makes me feel like a nonperson, kind of.”

Who Is Kathleen Hensley Portalski?

Documents show Kathleen Anne Hensley was born to Jim and Mary Jeanne Hensley on Feb. 23, 1943. They had been married for six years when Kathleen was born.

Jim Hensley was a bombardier on a B-17, flying over Europe during World War II.

He was injured and sent to a facility in West Virginia to recuperate. During that time, while still married to Mary Jeanne, Hensley met another woman — Marguerite Smith. Jim divorced Mary Jeanne and married Marguerite in 1945.

Cindy Lou Hensley was born nine years later, in 1954.

She may have grown up as an only child, but so did her half sister, Kathleen, who was raised by a single parent.

Portalski says she did see her father and her half sister from time to time.

“I saw him a few times a year,” she says. “I saw him at Christmas and birthdays, and he provided money for school clothes, and he called occasionally.”

Jim Hensley also provided credit cards and college tuition for his grandchildren, as well as $10,000 gifts to Kathleen and her husband, Stanley Portalski. That lasted a decade, they say. By then, Jim Hensley had built Hensley and Co. into one of the largest beer distributorships in the country. He was worth tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars.

Sole Inheritor To Hensley’s Estate

When Hensley died in 2000, his will named not only Portalski but also a daughter of his wife Marguerite from her earlier marriage. So, Cindy McCain may be the only product of Jim and Marguerite’s marriage, but she is not the only child of either.

She was, however, the sole inheritor of his considerable estate.

Kathleen Portalski was left $10,000, and her children were left nothing. It’s a fact Nicholas Portalski says his sister discovered the hard way.

“What she found in town — on the day of or the day before or the day after his funeral — was that the credit card didn’t work anymore,” Nick says.

The Portalskis live in a modest home in central Phoenix. Kathleen is retired, as is her husband. Nicholas Portalski is a firefighter and emergency medical technician looking for work.

They say it would have been nice if they were left some of the Hensley fortune.

They also say they are Democrats, but Nicholas Portalski says he had another reason for coming forward.

“The fact that we don’t exist,” he says. “The fact that we’ve never been recognized, and then Cindy has to put such a fine point on it by saying something that’s not true. Recently, again and again. It’s just very, very hurtful.”

Kathleen Portalski says she’d like an acknowledgment and an apology.

NPR asked the McCain campaign — specifically, Cindy McCain — to comment or respond. Neither replied.

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Cindy Hensley McCain’s Colorful Background

 
 

The Hensley Fortune Started Here With Kemper MarleyCindy McCain (nee Hensley) was born to Jim Hensley, a protégée of Kemper Marley. This guy called himself a politician, but he was really a gangster.

     

 

 

A Car BombIn 1976 a crusading Phoenix reporter, Don Bolles, was murdered by a car-bomb after writing a series of stories exposing the organized crime connections of well-known figures in Arizona, including one Jim Hensley.

     

 

 

What Race is She?The Hensleys were probably Jewish.

     

 

 

McCain Marries Into Money

The Hensley fortune that financed McCain’s rise to power.

The Hensley fortune, in fact, is a regional offshoot of the big time boot-legging and rackets empire of the Bronfman dynasty of Canada, founded by Sam Bronfman, an early partner of Meyer Lansky, longtime “chairman of the board” of the international crime syndicate.
 

     

 

 

Hensley’s Mob ConnectionsMcCain’s father-in-law got his start as a top henchman of one Kemper Marley, who, for some forty years until his death in 1990 at age 84, was the undisputed behind-the-scenes political boss of Arizona. But Marley was much more: he was also the protege’ of Lansky’s longtime lieutenant, Phoenix gambler Gus Greenbaum.

     

 

 

Mayer LanskyIn 1941, Greenbaum was a book-maker. In 1946, Greenbaum turned over the day-to-day operations to Marley while Greenbaum focused on building up Lansky-run casinos in Las Vegas, commuting there from his home in Phoenix.

Greenbaum, in fact, was so integral to the Lansky empire that he was the one who took command of Lansky’s Las Vegas interests in 1947 after Lansky ordered the execution of his own longtime friend, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, for skimming profits from the new Flamingo Casino

     

 

 

Hensley Served Time

During this time Marley was building up a liquor distribution monopoly in Arizona. The truth is, that it was the Bronfman family that set Marley up in business. However, in 1948, some 52 of Marley’s employees (including Jim Hensley) went to jail on federal liquor violations—but not Marley.

     

 

 

Hensley Becomes Wealthy

The story in Arizona is that Hensley took the fall for Marley. Upon Hensley’s release from prison, Marley paid Hensley back by setting him up in the beer business. That company today, said to be worth $200 million, financed McCain’s career. And without Marley’s political support, McCain could have never even gotten elected dog-catcher.
 

     

 

 

 

The Notorious Jacobs Family

Hensley had a dog track operation connected to the the Buffalo-based Jacobs family.

The Jacobs were the leading distributors for Bronfman liquor into the United States during Prohibition into the hands of local gangs that were part of the Lansky syndicate. Expanding over the years, the family’s enterprises were once described as being “probably the biggest quasi-legitimate cover for organized crime’s money-laundering in the United States.”