Today the New York Times published an incredible, and incredibly detailed, account of unrestrained favor-trading within the Obama administration. In a nut: The president’s cabinet, including the State Department under Hillary Clinton, suspended travel bans placed on certain Ecuadorian nationals who committed fraud (and worse) after those nationals’ family members pledged five- and six-figures sums to Democratic organizations.
The Times report centers on the well-connected Isaías family, who are frequent and generous donors to Democrats. Reporter Frances Robles begins by highlighting the story of Estefanía Isaías, who was restricted from traveling to the United States in 2008. Her entry ban was enacted after federal officials discovered that she had illegally obtained work visas for her maid staff, having lied about the circumstances under which she brought them to the United States.
The ban soon caught the attention of a prominent Democrat, Senator Bob Menendez (on whom the family lavished campaign money). Robles writes:
For more than a year, Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, and his staff engaged in a relentless effort to help Ms. Isaías, urging senior government officials, including Mrs. Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, to waive the ban. The senator’s assistance came even though Ms. Isaías’s family, a major donor to him and other American politicians, does not live in his state. The Obama administration then reversed its decision and gave Ms. Isaías the waiver she needed to come to the United States — just as tens of thousands of dollars in donations from the family poured into Mr. Obama’s campaign coffers.
The Times later provides a tick-tock of particularly suspicious donations, such as a $40,000 check written to the Obama Victory Fund in May 2012, just one day before the Obama administration lifted the ban against Estefanía Isaías. The reversal echoed the same administration’s stance toward the woman’s brothers, Roberto and William, who are considered fugitives in their home country:
The Obama administration has allowed the family’s patriarchs, Roberto and William Isaías, to remain in the United States, refusing to extradite them to Ecuador. The two brothers were sentenced in absentia in 2012 to eight years in prison, accused of running their bank into the ground and then presenting false balance sheets to profit from bailout funds. In a highly politicized case, Ecuador says the fraud cost the country $400 million.
The entire family, the Times argues, “has repeatedly received favorable treatment from the highest levels of the American government.” The paper’s lengthy report, which is tangled though very much worth reading, can be found here.
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