Tuesday, February 7, 2012



Note: Remember the Monterrey casino massacre? As mentioned here on
occasion, none of these issues, drugs, illegal immigration, unsecured
border, arms trafficking, politics and corruption; can be separated.

7 February 2012 Last updated at 08:33 ET
Obama campaign returns funds linked to Mexico fugitive

US President Barack Obama's election campaign is to return donations
linked to the family of a fugitive Mexican casino magnate.

The Chicago-based brothers of Juan Jose Rojas Cardona, known as Pepe,
raised some $200,000 (£126,000) for Mr Obama.

Pepe Cardona fled the US in 1994 and is now seeking a pardon for drug
and fraud charges, the New York Times reports.

Meanwhile, Mr Obama is to allow a pro-Democratic fundraising group to
raise unlimited cash to back his candidacy.

Mr Obama's official campaign war-chest is healthy - with some $81m
cash in hand at the end of 2011 - but relies on small donors.

Campaign officials have said that most donors give $250 or less, with
an average donation of $56.
Suspicion of murder

The report in the New York Times detailing the Cardonas brothers'
continuing links to their fugitive brother prompted a swift reaction
from the Obama 2012 campaign.

"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, a spokesman for the
Obama campaign.

He said the campaign "constantly" reviews contributions received and
said that more than 1.3 million Americans have donated so far.

According to a leaked US state department cable from 2009, Pepe
Cardona - now based in Mexico's Monterrey region - was suspected of
orchestrating the murder of a business rival.

After the rival's death, Pepe Cardona became the largest operator of
casinos - often used to launder illicit profits - in the area.

Last year, according to the New York Times, his Chicago-based
brothers Carlos and Alberto Rojas Cardona arranged for the former
chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party to seek a pardon for him from
the governor.

However, no pardon was reported to be forthcoming.
'Two sets of rules'

The decision to hand back the Cardona donations came as it emerged
that the president had given his personal backing to Priorities USA,
a so-called "super PAC" (political action committee).

Obama aides, campaign officials and some government members will be
allowed to speak at Priorities USA events, the Obama campaign said.

The decision is aimed at countering what the Obama campaign sees as a
key financial advantage for the president's Republican rivals.

A 2010 Supreme Court ruling allows super PACs to raise unlimited cash
to support of a candidate, as long as they do not co-ordinate
activities with the candidate's campaign.

Presidential front-runner Mitt Romney's official campaign has seen a
pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future, spend heavily on negative
advertising during the primary season. Newt Gingrich's cash-strapped
campaign has been kept alive by money donated to a pro-Gingrich super
PAC, Winning Our Future.

Two super PACs set up by former George W Bush aide Karl Rove raised
some $51m in 2011 to spend on upcoming 2012 battles.

Although Mr Obama has previously decried the influence of money in
politics, Democratic super PACs have raised little cash so far.

In an email to supporters on Monday night, Obama campaign manager Jim
Messina said the Democrats would "not play by two sets of rules" in
the upcoming election.

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