Monday, November 19, 2007

Hillary, Nixon and the Fanjuls: birds of the same feathers?

“Hillary Clinton has always been an old-style Midwestern Republican in the Illinois style; one severely infected with Methodism, unlike the more populist variants from Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa.”

“Her first known political enterprise was in the 1960 presidential election, the squeaker where the state of Illinois notoriously put Kennedy over the top, courtesy of Mayor Daley, Sam Giancana and Judith Exner. Hillary was a Nixon supporter. She took it on herself to probe allegations of vote fraud. From the leafy middle-class suburbs of Chicago's west side, she journeyed to the tenements of the south side, another list in her hand. She went to an address recorded as the domicile of hundreds of Democratic voters and duly found an empty lot. She rushed back to campaign headquarters, agog with her discovery, only to be told that Nixon was throwing in the towel.”

“The setting of Hillary's political compass came in the late Sixties. The fraught year of 1968 saw the Goldwater girl getting a high-level internship in the House Republican Conference with Gerald Ford and Melvin Laird, without an ounce of the Goldwater libertarian pizzazz. Hillary says the assassinations of King and Robert Kennedy, plus the war in Vietnam, hit her hard. The impact was not of the intensity that prompted many of her generation to become radicals. [Hillary] left the suburb of Park Forest and rushed to Miami to the Republican Convention where she fulfilled a lifelong dream of meeting Frank Sinatra and John Wayne and devoted her energies to saving the Party from her former icon, Nixon, by working for Nelson Rockefeller.”

“Hillary was on Mondale's staff for the summer of '71, investigating worker abuses in the sugarcane plantations of southern Florida, as close to slavery as anywhere in the U.S.A. Life's ironies: Hillary raised not a cheep of protest when one of the prime plantation families, the Fanjuls, called in their chips (laid down in the form of big campaign contributions to Clinton) and insisted that Clinton tell Vice President Gore to abandon his calls for the Everglades to be restored, thus taking water Fanjul was appropriating for his operation.”

The above is from The Making of Hillary Clinton an article by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair.

MEET THE FANJUL FAMILY

To understand the power of Florida sugar, it is illustrative to look at the very wealthy, very private members of the Fanjul family of Florida. With an enormous sugar empire that dwarfs even the U.S. Sugar Corporation, the Fanjul family's sugar holdings in Florida and the Dominican Republic total more than 400,000 acres, operated by a family of companies under the corporate umbrella of Flo-Sun, Inc.

Four brothers -- Alfonso "Alfie," José "Pepe," Alexander, and Andres -- are the principal owners and managers of Flo-Sun. The Fanjuls are Cuban-American descendants of the wealthy Gomez-Mena family of Cuba, which controlled much of the American-dominated sugar industry in Cuba until Fidel Castro seized power, and the New York-based Fanjul family. Matriarch Lillian de Fanjul and her four sons make their home in exclusive Palm Beach, Florida, an hour's drive and a world away from the gritty sugar plantations of western Palm Beach County.

Unlike U.S. Sugar Corporation, its Florida rival, whose offices are smack in the middle of Clewiston's sugar fields, Flo-Sun is headquartered in a posh complex in Palm Beach. The Fanjuls themselves live in multimillion-dollar mansions set among the palm-tree-lined streets of the town.

With their wealth conservatively estimated at several hundred million dollars (Forbes magazine puts the figure at $500 million), the Fanjuls can afford to spread around lots of political money. And they do. Family members, corporate executives, the corporations themselves, and the Florida Sugar Cane League PAC have contributed $2.6 million to political candidates and committees since 1979. (Until mid-1994, the Fanjuls and executives for Fanjul companies accounted for an increasing share of the Florida Sugar Cane League PAC's funds, from 20 percent in 1980 to 62 percent in 1992. While the PAC is still filing reports with the FEC, there has been little actual activity, with only $38 listed as receipts since October 1994.) Fanjul family members alone gave direct contributions of $359,505 to more than 172 congressional candidates of both parties.

That is just the "hard" money. The Fanjuls also give substantial "soft money" contributions to political parties. In fact, the Fanjul family and its companies account for 59 percent of all the soft money given by the sugar industry to the national party committees since 1991.

The Democratic and Republican parties alike are beneficiaries of Fanjul largesse. Alfie Fanjul, one of the four Fanjul brothers who controls Flo-Sun, is a lifelong Democrat. He served as co-chairman of Bill Clinton's Florida campaign, and co-sponsored a Cuban-American fund-raiser at Victor's Cafe in Miami that reportedly raised more than $100,000 for Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign, according to The Wall Street Journal. In addition, Fanjul-controlled companies have contributed $131,000 to the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee since 1991. After Clinton won, Fanjul was invited to attend the president-elect's "economic summit" in Little Rock, where he occupied a place three seats away from Clinton and Vice President-elect Al Gore and next to future Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen. Alfie Fanjul later appeared with Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt at a ceremony announcing an Everglades cleanup plan.

His brother, José "Pepe" Fanjul, is a Republican activist who served as a vice chairman of the Bush-Quayle finance committee during the 1988 presidential campaign. In 1988, Pepe Fanjul was also a member of "Team 100," the group of people giving $100,000 or more to the Republican Party. In 1990, he was a guest in the Bush White House. Since 1991, Fanjul-controlled companies have contributed more than $186,500 in soft money to Republican national committees. More recently, Pepe Fanjul joined the finance committee of Sen. Bob Dole's (R-Kan.) presidential campaign.

There's nothing unusual about the Fanjul family's extensive political contributions, according to Jorge Dominicis, a vice president of Flo-Sun, Inc. Dominicis was interviewed by a researcher for the Center for Responsive Politics in August 1994. "People who are powerful contribute and have access to political leaders," Dominicis said. "You contribute to people with whom you've had a relationship in the past. It's not hard to figure out who to give money to. Tom Lewis [R-Fla.] has been very helpful. And it doesn't take much to realize that Charlie Rose [D-N] is chairman of the subcommittee that handles your issues. It's all part of the process. It keeps you from being forgotten or not having access to that office. If you're a large company and you don't contribute, you have a tough time. Members conclude that you don't support them."

Over the years, the Fanjuls have enjoyed high-level contacts with the Reagan, Bush and Clinton Administrations, key members of Congress, and most of Florida's political establishment. Former Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher is a family friend, and during the Bush Administration, the Fanjuls and Mosbacher spent a lot of time together, including vacations at a Fanjul-owned resort in the Dominican Republic. In February 1994, according to the Palm Beach Post, Alfie Fanjul paid $5,000 to attend a fund-raising dinner organized by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), and even offered the use of his yacht Crili to attendees.

The above is from Sugar’s First Family by the Center for Responsive Politics.

JG: Let us not forget that it was Hillary’s husband, President Bill Clinton, who prostituted himself by jumping into bed with none other than U.S. Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC), and signed into law the infamous Helms-Burton Act.

Hillary has declared that she would continue the failed Cuba embargo, which last month was condemned by a 184-4 vote at the United Nations. She would follow the policies of Nixon, Reagan and Bush, and most likely, if she is the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee, would accept money, like her husband Bill, from the Fanjul brothers and the ultra right wing PAC’s of Miami.

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