The donations kept pouring in: hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to President Obama and more than a dozen members of Congress, carefully routed through the families of two wealthy brothers in Florida.
They had good reason to be generous. The two men, Roberto and William Isaias, are fugitives from Ecuador, which has angrily pressed Washington to turn them over, to no avail. A year after their relatives gave $90,000 to help re-elect Mr. Obama, the administration rejected Ecuador’s extradition request for the men, fueling accusations that such donations were helping to keep the brothers and their families safely on American soil.
“The Isaias brothers fled to Miami not to live off their work, something just, but to buy themselves more mansions and Rolls-Royces and to finance American political campaigns,” President Rafael Correa of Ecuador told reporters last month. “That’s what has given them protection,” he added, an allegation the Obama administration and members of Congress reject.
You mean that the 1% propped Obama up? Seriously?
But beyond the political hostilities between the two nations, campaign finance experts say, the extensive donations in the Isaias case create the appearance of a financial conflict of interest that hangs over Washington’s decisions on the brothers’ fate. While the contributions were not illegal, analysts say they have opened the already politicized nature of extradition requests to greater scrutiny and raised questions about the access to power the donations provide.
Some analysts have even questioned whether fund-raisers have specifically sought out the two men for contributions because it was clear they were in trouble and would be more likely to give.
:-0 I. Am. Shocked.
“There is a certain mercenary aura on the Hill when it comes to overlap of fund-raising from wealthy individuals with problems,” said Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, a research group. “The key elements are all there: They are wealthy and have problems that are solved by the discretionary judgment of someone in the administration. They have tons of money and are willing to write checks all over the place.”
Donations from the relatives of criminal suspects have proved vexing before. In 2012, Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign said it would return more than $200,000 raised by relatives of a Mexican casino magnate who had fled charges in the United States and sought a pardon to return.
The White House says that the decisions in the Isaias case are not influenced by donations.
Phew. Because if decisions were influenced by donations, that would be wrong. And the Most Transparent Administration Evah™ wouldn’t do something wrong.