Monday, August 14, 2006

Did U.S. Senator Mel Martinez receive illegal funds from Bacardi?

Citizens for Responsibilty and Ethics in Washington

August 7, 2006

CREW FILES FEC COMPLAINT AGAINST BACARDI U.S.A. AND MARTINEZ FOR SENATE

Requests FEC Audit and Field Investigation of 2004 Martinez Campaign

Washington, D.C. - Earlier today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging that Bacardi illegally used corporate resources and facilities to raise as much as $60,000 for Martinez for Senate at a May 11, 2004 fundraising event held at Bacardi's Miami headquarters.

The complaint alleges that Bacardi violated the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) and FEC regulations by using corporate funds to pay for the food and liquor served at the May 11, 2004 event. The complaint also alleges that Bacardi used a corporate list of vendors to solicit contributions to the Martinez for Senate fundraising event. The complaint alleges that employees of at least three Bacardi vendors - Hunton & Williams, Chesapeake Enterprises and The MWW Group - made contributions to the Martinez for Senate campaign in response to Bacardi's solicitations. Bacardi has already admitted to illegally using corporate funds to pay for the refreshments at the fundraising event in a filing with the FEC.

The complaint also alleges that Martinez for Senate violated FECA and FEC regulations by failing to properly identify the employer of five senior Bacardi executives, including Bacardi U.S.A. CEO Eduardo Sardina and Bacardi U.S.A. General Counsel Frederick Wilson, who together contributed $5,000 to Martinez for Senate. The complaint alleges that "Martinez for Senate and/or Bacardi engaged in a deliberate effort to obfuscate Bacardi's role in the May 11, 2004 fundraising event."

The complaint alleges that Martinez for Senate failed to provide any employer and occupation information for 54% of the contributors to the May 11, 2004 fundraising event. Because Martinez for Senate's failure to provide this information indicates that the Martinez campaign failed to meet the threshold requirements for substantial compliance with FECA, CREW has requested that the FEC conduct an audit and field investigation of the Bacardi fundraising event and consider a complete audit of Martinez for Senate for the entire 2003-2004 election cycle.

Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW, said, “This is an archetypal example of how special interests use corporate money to buy influence in Washington. The FEC recently fined Freddie Mac $3.4 million for using corporate resources and facilities to raise money for federal candidates. Given that Bacardi's use of corporate resources in this case generated as much as $60,000 for Martinez for Senate, we believe that a substantial fine in excess of $100,000 is appropriate. Given the evidence that Martinez for Senate and Bacardi apparently conspired to hide Bacardi's role in this fundraising event, we strongly believe that an FEC audit and field investigation of Martinez for Senate is needed.”

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For more information, or to view the letter, please visit www.citizensforethics.org or contact Naomi Seligman Steiner at 202.408.5565/press@citizensforethics.org.

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