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Obama camp explains refund of donations tied to Mexican fugitive

February 07, 2012|By Kathleen Hennessey
  • President Obama speaks at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington on Thursday.
President Obama speaks at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington… (Chris Kleponis/Bloomberg )

Reporting from Washington — The Obama campaign is returning more than $200,000 in campaign donations from relatives of a fugitive and casino baron believed to be tied to political corruption in Mexico.

The decision to return the money came after the contributions were flagged by the New York Times. The newspaper reported late Monday that the money was donated by family members of Juan Jose Rojas "Pepe" Cardona, who is believed to have fled to Mexico after facing drug and fraud charges in the United States.

Cardona's brothers, Carlos Cardona and Alberto Rojas, both of Chicago, began donating money to and soliciting contributions for the Obama campaign last fall. The men continue to have business ties to their brother, who is suspected of funneling political donations in Mexico, the newspaper reported.

But the campaign says it was not aware of their connection to Pepe Cardona.

"We have more than 1.3 million contributors to the campaign and it was very difficult to track down full information on this," a senior campaign official said Tuesday. "Our vetters don't necessarily have the ability to pursue that with all 1.3 million donors. As soon as the questions were raised, we refunded the contributions."

Melanie Mason contributed to this report.

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