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Clinton Re-Election Campaign Solicited Donation From Convicted Drug Smuggler in Cuba; DNC Received Donations From Drug Money Launderer in Arkansas


May-June 1997

On March 29, Congressional investigators learned that Jorge Cabrera, now a convicted drug smuggler, had been solicited for a campaign contribution in 1995 at the Copacabana Hotel in Havana by Vivian Mannerud, a Cuban-American businesswoman and prominent Democratic fund-raiser. In exchange for a donation, Cabrera was promised an invitation to a fund-raising dinner in honor of Al Gore near Miami (Don Van Natta Jr., "A Felon's Donation to Democrats Was Sought in Cuba, Inquiry Says," New York Times, April 4, 1997, p. A1; Don Van Natta Jr., "Democrat solicited drug smuggler," Chicago Tribune, April 4, 1997, s. 1, p. 6).

Several days after that meeting in November 1995, Cabrera wrote a $20,000 check to the Democratic National Committee from an account that included proceeds from smuggling cocaine into the U.S. from Colombia, an investigator said under condition of anonymity. Cabrera met Vice President Gore at the Miami dinner within two weeks of the contribution. Ten days later, Cabrera attended a Christmas party hosted by Hillary Clinton at the White House.

Three weeks later, Cabrera, who had two felony convictions dating back to the 1980s, was arrested for importing 6,000 pounds of cocaine into the U.S. He pleaded guilty to those charges and is now serving a 19-year sentence in a Florida prison. The DNC said the donation from Cabrera was returned in October 1996. Congressional investigators, who are probing alleged campaign fund-raising abuses, learned of Cabrera'a donation during interviews with Cabrera.


Mark Cambiano, a Little Rock, Arkansas defense attorney, was charged on April 9 with laundering $380,000 in drug money from a methamphetamine ring and in 1992 funneling some of it to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and to President Clinton's 1993 inauguration (Associated Press, "Arkansas Lawyer Charged With Money Laundering," Washington Post, April 10, 1997, p. A20; "Democrats Received Money From Drugs An Indictment Says," New York Times, April 10, 1997, p. A24).

Cambiano, 41, pleaded not guilty to all 31 federal money laundering and conspiracy counts. U.S. Attorney Paula Casey stressed that the people who received money from Cambiano, including the DNC, did not know the donations were drug money. Casey said Cambiano was not involved in drug trafficking. The indictment said Cambiano transferred $20,000 from his bank account to the DNC around July 10, 1992, and transferred $9,770 around Jan. 7, 1993, to the Presidential Inaugural Committee General Fund. DNC spokeswoman Amy Weiss Tobe said the DNC would look into the donation and see whether it needed to be returned.

Casey said Cambiano's alleged activities surfaced during a drug trafficking investigation of alleged ring leader Willard Burnett and former Conway County Sheriff James Carl Poteete, who have both pleaded guilty in the case. Cambiano allegedly laundered drug money for both men. Cambiano was released on a $25,000 bond, and his trial date was set for May 27.