Obama Returning $200,000 in Donations From Brothers of Mexican Fugitive

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Photo: Pool/2011 Getty Images

Two brothers in Chicago, Carlos and Alberto Rojas Cardona, have been raising a lot of money for the Democratic National Committee and the reelection of Barack Obama, while also seeking a pardon for their other brother, a shady character in Mexico. Juan Jose Rojas Cardona, better known as Pepe, the New York Times reports, "jumped bail in Iowa in 1994 and disappeared, and has since been linked to violence and corruption in Mexico." The Obama campaign initially said they had no idea about Pepe, but have since insisted they want nothing to do with him; more than $200,000 in donations raised by the Cardona family will be returned.

The Times reports:

The money Alberto Cardona raised put him in the upper tiers of fund-raisers known as bundlers, according to a list released last month by the campaign. He and Carlos Cardona each gave the maximum $30,800 to the Democratic National Committee, and a lesser amount to a state victory fund. A sister, Leticia Rojas Cardona of Tennessee, donated $13,000 to the national committee, and another relative in Illinois gave $12,600, records show. There is no record of Pepe Cardona making a donation.

Although the two brothers live and work in Chicago, they maintain ties to Pepe Cardona in Mexico. Alberto Cardona operates an advertising agency in Mexico that has worked for political candidates backed by his brother, according to public records and Mexican news reports. Public records also show that the domain name for the Web site of a restaurant Pepe Cardona owns is registered to Alberto Cardona.

Pepe has an outstanding warrant in Iowa on a probation violation charge. A lawyer tied to the Iowa Democratic Party recently asked the state's outgoing governor for a pardon. "I can think of few people who are less deserving of a pardon than Pepe Rojas-Cardona," a lawyer responded in opposition. To do so, she wrote, would be "a travesty of justice."

To spice up the story a bit, public info on Pepe comes in part from State Department cables put out by WikiLeaks, which connect Pepe to the corrupt world of casinos, and say he survived an assassination attempt tied to organized crime in 2007. "I understand that it looks real bad," explained a sister-in-law of the Cardonas. "But the rest of the family are really good people. Pepe is actually a good person too." In an election year, that's just not going to cut it when it comes to donors. The super PACs will have to do.