What would make President Obama return some $200,000 in campaign donations? Oh, its connection to a drug smuggler and "casino czar" who fled to Mexico will about do it. Some old fashioned public-record detective work (along with Wikileaked cable from the State Department) on the part of The New York Times revealed that the family of Juan Jose Rojas Cardona, more commonly know as "Pepe," donated about $200,000 to Obama's reelection campaign for what seems to be some favor-currying. And in a nice bit of journalists difference-making, all it took for the Obama campaign to return the money was for The Times's Mike McIntire to ask a question.
When The New York Times asked the Obama campaign early Monday about the Cardonas, officials said they were unaware of the brother [Pepe] in Mexico. Later in the day, the campaign said it was refunding the money raised by the family, which totaled more than $200,000.
Cardona family members still living in the U.S. and have made efforts in the past to get Pepe pardoned for his crimes, which today mainly consist of a probation violation in Iowa. But the optics on Pepe get worse after The Times spells out his arrest of smuggling marijuana across the Mexican border in the 1990s, suspicions of his "illegally funneling $5 million into Mexican political campaigns in 2006," and his network of Mexican casinos today.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.