Report: Obama to return donations tied to Mexican fugitive

President Obama’s reelection campaign will return more than $200,000 raised by the brothers of a Mexican casino magnate who jumped bail on drug and fraud charges in the 1990s, reports The New York Times.

The brothers of Juan Jose Rojas “Pepe” Cardona, a casino owner who skipped bail in Iowa in 1994, have been seeking the pardon of their brother from the Iowa Democratic Party and former Iowa Gov. Chet Culver (D) — and raising huge amounts of campaign cash — despite subsequent accusations by the U.S. State Department that Cardona ordered the assassination of a business rival and made illegal campaign contributions to Mexican politicians during his time on the lam.

{mosads}Iowa officials told the Times that no pardon was forthcoming; the president cannot pardon someone on state charges. But the Obama campaign said Monday that it was returning the money to try to avoid questions of impropriety.

“On the basis of the questions that have been raised, we will return the contributions from these individuals and from any other donors they brought to the campaign,” said Ben LaBolt, Obama’s campaign spokesman, to the paper.

Obama political strategist David Axelrod admitted during an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that the campaign had not properly vetted the Cardona brothers.

“We didn’t know who these folks were. They themselves were not the guilty party and the vet didn’t go deep enough, obviously. When we found out about these entanglements, we returned all the money that they donated and raised. And we’ll continue to do that. We have 1.3 million contributors, and so there are going to be holes and when there are we’re going to act quickly, and that’s what we did here,” Axelrod said.

The brothers — Carlos Cardona and Alberto Rojas Cardona — live and work in Chicago, and are described in the report as having recently emerged as major donors to the Democratic Party. They made the president’s list of “bundlers” — high-dollar fundraisers — after giving (both individually and through family members) more than $100,000 to the joint account shared by the president’s reelection fund and Democratic National Committee. According to campaign records, they also brought in tens of thousands of dollars from other donors.

The Times investigation found multiple financial ties between Pepe Cardona’s Mexican casino businesses and his brothers’ American enterprises.

The announcement that the campaign would be returning the donation came the same evening that it announced it would encourage donors to contribute to an affiliated super-PAC in an effort to compete with Republican opponents who have used the outside groups effectively in the early GOP primaries.


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