Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition and a high-profile figure in a scandal involving disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, had e-mailed friends in recent weeks touting the Monday night McCain fundraiser. However, Reed was not at the event and McCain did not mention him during his remarks, the newspaper said.
McCain, who participated in a congressional probe of the Abramoff scandal, had come in for criticism for his apparent association with Reed -- who was not charged with any wrongdoing but whose public image was damaged by details of his role in lobbying and fundraising operations conducted by Abramoff and others.
Abramoff is serving a 6-year federal prison term for fraud, and has reportedly been cooperating with investigators looking into corruption involving public officials.
A McCain campaign representative would not say whether the campaign asked Reed to stay away from the fundraiser.
The campaign of likely Democratic president nominee Barack Obama issued a statement saying the McCain campaign "scrambled' to "scratch Ralph Reed from tonight's program."
"The real question isn't why Reed isn't showing up, but why a so-called reformer would invite him at all," the statement said.